History and Scopes
The political and ideological crisis following the dismantling of Berlin Wall, the chaotic situation and the inherent instability due to the fragmentation of former Yugoslavia, the anarchical transition towards the free market economy, with the parallel reinvigoration of the well-rooted hidden hatred among the various ethnic, religious and cultural groups, have produced the well-known troubled and extremely dangerous situation of the Balkan area. The whole area was affected by a series of ruinous and uncontrollable wars and was strained by pressures of migratory fluxes, as well as by an unbounded increase of crime.
In the attempt of copying with the spreading of the Balkan crisis, and also to correct some wrong actions, the European Union has promoted the so-called “Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe” regarding all the south-eastern European countries, aspiring to join the Union in the future.
Within this treaty, on the occasion of the Finnish EU Summit of October 1999, held in Tampere, the “Adriatic-Ionian Initiative” has been presented by the Italian Government, before being adopted.
The European Union has strongly encouraged this Italian initiative, made possible by the decisive and active support of another member state of EU, Greece.
The Adriatic and Ionian Initiative (AII) was established at the Summit on Development and Security on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, held in Ancona (Italy) on 19th/20th May 2000 and attended by the Heads of States and Governments of Italy, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Slovenia. At the end of the Conference, the Foreign Ministers of the participating Countries signed the “Ancona Declaration” in the presence of the European Commission. As the Declaration states, strengthening regional cooperation helps to promote political and economic stability, thus creating a solid base for the process of European integration.
The Initiative was later extended to the federative union of Serbia and Montenegro, and after the referendum in Montenegro both States remained AII Participating Countries.
Today, the AII counts eight Members: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
Regarding the latest developments, and following the recent EU approach to support multilateral sub-regional cooperation and the successful example of the adoption of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea, the AII has started working, since the beginning of 2010, on the idea of a Macro-Region for the Adriatic Ionian basin. Considering the common historical and cultural heritage, the use of the common sea, the need to protect the marine environment from pollution, the opportunity of sustainable development and growth and the common goal to make this basin an internal sea of the European Union when the integration process will be concluded in the Western Balkan countries, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the 8 countries of the Adriatic Ionian Initiative, concluding the Italian Chairmanship, have approved a Declaration on the Support of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian Basin (5th May 2010, Ancona).
Since then the AII participating States, the coastal regional authorities, the thematic networks and the AII have started a work aimed at raising the awareness on the necessity of establishing a Macro-Region for the Adriatic Ionian basin. This initiative is having support from all Adriatic Ionian actors at all levels of government and in order to bring it to the attention of the EU authorities the last Adriatic Ionian Council closing the Montenegrin Presidency has been successfully held on the 23rd of May 2011 in Brussels at the premises of the Committee of the Regions.
The AII was originally founded with the aim of providing common and concerted solutions to shared problems, from fighting against organised criminality to the need to protect the natural environment of the Adriatic-Ionian Sea.
Eleven years after the establishment of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative the geopolitical environment around has deeply changed. Particularly, among the AII Participating Countries, Slovenia entered the EU in 2004 while the other Adriatic-Ionian East side coastal Countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia), even if with different timeframes and conditions, are gradually approaching the EU within the Stabilization and Association Process framework, as a prelude to a future EU membership. Notwithstanding these changes, the reasons which had grounded the establishment of AII still persist, and they have even become stronger across time.
Given the increased interdependence among States connected to the globalisation processes and the need to provide common solution to common problems affecting the Adriatic region ask for concerted cooperation not only among regional Countries but also among regional initiatives. Therefore, the cooperation has progressively assumed different forms, including also the establishment of local partnerships among local actors. The Council in Zagreb (27 May 2008) stated the “determination to improve cooperation among the local and regional level of authorities within the AII”.