(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Today, more than ever, we need cooperation. For economic recovery from the pandemic, for a response to Russian aggression, for support to Ukrainian refugees, and for a climate crisis which requires us to fundamentally change our economy and our way of life.
In all these contexts, we must work together and cooperation must be the solid foundation of any serious answer.
So welcome to this annual forum for the Adriatic and Ionian region. A particular welcome to San Marino, the newest member of the family.
And my particular thank you to the Albanian authorities for their work in the presidency of the forum.
And there is work to be done. This is a macro-region of incredible growth potential: some of its regions are already key motors of the European economy, but I firmly believe that we have here many other future key motors of the European economy.
But there are various practical steps which will need to be taken first. For some countries, the preparation for enlargement. And for all countries, improving connections, protecting biodiversity, and making the best use of immense regional assets, from young people to the cultural heritage, as well as the immense resource of one of the world’s most beautiful seas.
I welcome the priorities of the Albanian presidency. For this successful future, we must retain young people. We must tackle brain drain and make the region attractive to bright and dynamic young people.
So, I welcome the initiative to involve them more deeply, through the Youth Council. And this falls at an appropriate time, with 2022 being the European Year of Youth, and Tirana the Youth Capital. I know you will make the most of these opportunities.
I also welcome your project to bring the Green Deal to the region, from organising conferences to enhancing green public procurement. This is encouraging, but I also urge you to mobilise investment funds, which is what we mean when we talk about the “embedding” process.
I also welcome your work to facilitate enlargement. The region includes some of the most developed and some of the least developed regions of Europe. The 5 candidate – and potential candidate – countries have the opportunity to learn from some of the best. To pick up everything from administrative capacity to learning about EU processes, including cohesion policy processes.
In conclusion, as we face the challenges of today, from the economy to the environment, from brain drain to refugees, there is no problem, for which less cooperation is the solution.
All of the challenges require us to work together. On the basis of our shared European values, from democracy to the rule of law. On the basis of a shared commitment to solidarity, and to growing closer together. And in the belief that cooperation is on the only path to a better future.
Let cooperation be our guiding light both in the journey ahead and in the forum today. I wish you fruitful discussions.