I had a new visit to Croatia, this time on the beautiful Adriatic coast of the Dubrovnik region. I was really eager to see how the European funds help the newest EU member improve the lives of its citizens. At the same time, I was looking forward to seeing the eight countries of the Adriatic-Ionian region working together to come up with concrete solutions to the common challenges. For my second visit in Croatia, I had set as important goals to strengthen the dialogue with the Croatian authorities in order to ensure their full commitment for using wisely the EU allocated funds, and also to forge a strong bond among the countries of the Adriatic-Ionian region.
Eight countries have joined our efforts for creating a better Europe in this part of the continent through EUSAIR, the European Union Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region: four EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) and four non-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia). The Strategy is envisioned as a framework that allows the participating countries to further integrate and to work together in four areas of utmost importance: transport, energy, environment and sustainable tourism. We launched the Strategy more than one and a half years ago with the underlying objective of improving the region’s attractiveness, competitiveness and connectivity. The next step was made on 12th of May 2016, when I met with ministers from these countries to assess together the progress made. I strongly emphasized to them that important steps have been taken to ensure the responsible governance and administrative structures of the Strategy. I encouraged them to maintain the political commitment and to devote more resources to the goals of the Strategy.
All of European Union’s major steps forward, such as the Internal Market, the EURO, etc. were results of this kind of close cooperation among states. I shared this idea at the 1st EUSAIR Forum held in Dubrovnik and I strongly encouraged the eight countries to cooperate closely and to address challenges together. I cannot stress enough the importance of working together, of finding common solutions to common problems. The European Commission is always ready to facilitate and support the countries of the Adriatic-Ionian region.
I found that the region is blessed with natural beauty, a mild climate and very hospitable people. Dubrovnik itself is a city of wonders and I could see why it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. But this means that it needs to develop the infrastructure to accommodate the large number of visitors. And I was glad to see that the authorities from Dubrovnik take this challenge very seriously. During my visit to the Dubrovnik Airport, I was happy to find out that the modernization works are well ahead schedule. The 134 million Euro from the European Structural and Invest Funds are wisely spent and the European funds really made the difference to the development of the city and of the region as a whole. As always, I am happy to see good projects, projects that contribute to the wellbeing of Europe’s citizens.
At the end of my visit in Dubrovnik, I had the chance to discuss with Tomislav Tolušić, the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds of Croatia. Our dialogue focused on how to get the newest EU member to make the most of the European funds allocated to this country for the period 2014 – 2020. The amount of 10 billion Euro that EU puts at Croatia’s disposal is an important chance for development and modernization of the country.
As Commissioner for Regional Policy, I continue to do the best I can to support the country to make full use of the available European funding.