Dear Visitors,

The year 2017 will be crucial one for regional cooperation in the region.

During last couple of years, the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative has been trying to fine-tune its intergovernmental activities with the "EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative" in multiple ways in order to coherently complement its work and to strengthen the effectiveness of its actions.

After the overhaul of the AII Round Tables approved in 2015, also the highest political body of the AII was reformed. For the first time in Dubrovnik (12-5-2016) a double hat "Adriatic and Ionian Council / EUSAIR Ministerial Meeting" was held within the EUSAIR Forum so avoiding duplications and pooling resources. This year's meeting will be held at the end of the AII Hellenic Chairmanship in Ioannina (11 May 2017).

This makes now the two exercises (AII and EUSAIR) inseparable one from the other and mutually beneficial.

This year's activities will be steered by two important presidencies: Greece for the first semester and Italy for the second. The AII focus for 2017 will be on stakeholders and civil society with the ultimate goal to bring them into the picture and to make the subsidiarity principle work.

The AII will foster this process in two ways:

- Strengthening AII Round Tables and connecting them strictly with the EUSAIR Thematic Steering Groups, establishing a communication flow between them and making sure they provide added value to the implementation of the EUSAIR.

In order to make them effective, the AII-PS will earmark part of its budget to finance the participation of selected experts coming from the Adriatic and Ionian Civil Society (Universities, NGOs, association, Chambers of Commerce) and from local administrations;

- Connecting the AII Round Tables with the Stakeholders Platform of the EUSAIR (an online platform gathering all Adriatic and Ionian Stakeholders and connecting them with the EUSAIR governance) as soon as it will be fully operational.

EUSAIR Stakeholders expect now to start reaping the benefit of the work done so far by the EU Commission and participating Countries. Therefore it is key that the EUSAIR Governance actors work as hard as possible in order to get the machine running so that actions and projects contribute to the promotion of economic growth and prosperity in the region by improving its attractiveness, competitiveness and connectivity.

The AII Permanent Secretariat (AII-PS) will support the rotating AII Chairmanship that, together with the Commission, co-chairs the EUSAIR, and will play its role in the Governing Board, EUSAIR managing body.

Dear Visitors, I can assure you that the Permanent Secretariat - from its seat in Ancona - will continue to be pivotal in its traditional connecting role between Governments, regional actors and civil society Fora and networks that have been, up to today, essential in the preparation and implementation phase of the macroregional mechanism and will continue to be the same during this crucial year.

I wish all of you visitors, EUSAIR Stakeholders and people involved in cooperation activities in the Adriatic and Ionian area a very successful working year!

January 2017