"Candidate countries for EU accession work really hard and they have the knowledge, but the experience of partner institutions from EU members is invaluable". When transnational networks help European integration. An interview
Thanks to specific European programmes, many groups, associations, and institutions are involved at different levels in the process of European integration of the Western Balkans. This is the case, for example, of the Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Montenegro which took part in the ADRION project Harmonia. Can participation in EU-funded projects facilitate the creation of transnational links that have a positive impact on the European integration process? We talked about it with Danijela Joksimovic, from the University of Montenegro.
Can you please introduce the ADRION Project HarmoNIA and its main objectives?
The project HarmoNIA - Harmonization and Networking for contaminant assessment in the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, was approved under the first call of the Adriatic-Ionian Program (ADRION). The project is implemented by a multidisciplinary team that includes research institutes and regional authorities from six countries (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece) accessing the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The leading partner is the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (OGS) from Trieste, Italy.
The main goal of the project is to strengthen transnational frameworks for better interoperability of existing marine management databases in order to promote data availability and improve knowledge of the marine ecosystem. This provides a good basis for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the UNEP/MAP protocol in the Adriatic-Ionian region.
How did it contribute to the adoption and implementation of EU marine environmental directives in Montenegro?
The importance of this project is especially apparent in the phase of transposition of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (IFRS) into national legislation and the launch of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production Program at our sea. By participating in the project, HarmoNIA intends to address the heterogeneity of methodological approaches and information used to assess good ecological status (GES) and to overcome the problem of fragmentation in terms of the geographical coverage of available data. Montenegro has completed a good environmental assessment (GES) in the past period, and is currently in the process of accepting a monitoring proposal that will be fully in line with the MSFD.
Can you please explain a little bit better the relation between marine protection and the hydrocarbon exploration and production programme?
In the Adriatic-Ionian region (ADRION), there are operating oil and gas platforms for the exploitation of hydrocarbons in Italian and Croatian waters. In addition, Montenegro and also Albania and Greece have exploration and exploitation concessions along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts.
Rock cuttings from drilling (drill cuttings) and produced formation water (PFW) brought up with the hydrocarbons during offshore operations are considered as the major sources of contaminants entering the sea. One of the goals of the project is to develop shared transnational approaches needed to evaluate the impact of offshore activities, by harmonising Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), monitoring, and decommissioning procedures.
In this project we described monitoring and decommissioning procedures in four countries (Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Montenegro), with the aim to share an improved and harmonised approach for evaluating impacts deriving from offshore platforms in the ADRION region.
The project involved 10 partners from the Adriatic-Ionian region. What was the role of the University of Montenegro - Institute of Marine Biology in the project?
The University of Montenegro - Institute of Marine Biology is recognized in this project as a relevant institution from Montenegro which together with the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism can provide the necessary data on the sea, as well as share its experience in the methodological approach to marine research with relevant institutions from the region. The Institute of Marine Biology had very good cooperation with OGS from before, so after their invitation we decided to be part of the consortium of this project. Moreover, the Institute has very good cooperation with the Institutes from Slovenia, Croatia, and Albania, which is quite normal considering that we are on the same side of the Adriatic coast and we work in the same, or at least similar, research field.
What are the advantages and potential disadvantages of working with regional partners coming from both EU member states and candidate countries?
One of the most significant advantages of the project is the provision of basic tools for assessing the risk of contamination in vulnerable coastal zones, especially the risk from oil rigs. In this regard, the exchange of best practices and harmonisation of monitoring protocols for reliable assessment of good environmental status, support for coordinated action in cases of accidental marine pollution, and the definition of a common strategy for assessing the risk of dispersion of pollutants, as well as the strengthening of data exchange infrastructure at the regional level and a better access to and further application of marine data is essential.
As a disadvantage, I could mention the smaller financial resources and the impossibility of hiring younger associates to work on the project.
How would you assess the collaboration with the partners? Were there any difficulties?
The cooperation with all partners in the project was very professional, responsible, and I can freely say quite friendly. Everyone was ready to help at any moment. Precisely the connection of the partners and their readiness to jointly contribute to the best possible results is reflected in the joint publication of several papers and chapters in the monograph that we have published.
Do you think that this kind of project facilitates the creation of communities of work or practices among the stakeholders involved?
Yes, of course. This is in fact the right way to connect institutions, spread knowledge and practices, improve, and create a strong link for future projects.
Do you think that participation in these projects on environmental protection and the creation of communities of work can help bring stakeholders closer to EU accession-related issues and facilitate the integration process? How?
Of course, I find it very useful and even a privilege to participate in such projects. Candidate
countries for EU accession work really hard and they have the knowledge, but the experience of partner institutions from EU members is invaluable. Every EU country that has adopted the MSFD is ready to make it easier for us through concrete examples so that we do not make the same mistakes as they did. In this way, we come to new knowledge in a much more efficient and easier way and we can find faster resolution to possible difficulties.
This content is published in the context of the "Work4Future" project co-financed by the European Union (EU). The EU is in no way responsible for the information or views expressed within the framework of the project. The responsibility for the contents lies solely with OBC Transeuropa. Go to the "Work4Future"
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