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Reaching out ordinary citizens for the benefit of EU macro-regions

Reaching out ordinary citizens for the benefit of EU macro-regions[1].

Dr Nicos GIANNIS, European Expression-founder, Greece

ThePerikles Funeral Orationwas recorded by Thucydides in his famousHistory of the Peloponnesian War.Let me share with you a quotation from chapter 2.60:

"He who is able to diagnose the necessary (who knows what to do), but is not able to explain it clearly to others, is as if he has not thought anything. He who has both, but does not love his homeland also cannot advise properly. If he loves his home country, but cannot resist money, he can sell everything in order to win it (to win money)".[i]

Thucydides speech at this part, brilliantly synthesizes his “realistic” assessment of the situation with the idealistic heroic values of the old Greek elit. This final speech is a masterpiece of ideological realism.

All is about four keywords: (1) Knowledge, (2) communication, (3) loyalty, (4) integrity.

First come knowledge, namely being able to identify knowledge, acquire or capture it, analyse, understand, learn, store, predict and anticipate events and trends, in order to take informed and potentially right decisions.

Following comes communication of that knowledge, knowledge sharing, in order for the target group to be not only informed but also influenced and even convinced, particularly if decision making considered its own state and destiny as outcome of this knowledge sharing. This is traditionally called democratic legitimacy.

Third comes loyalty. Loyalty is the faithful adherence to the interest and identity of the community. It can be also called patriotism. However, patriotism is reflected more and more towards multi-level communities and consequently governments, such as sub-national/local, national, macro-regional, European or even global. A portion of citizens is not concerned with any patriotism since they are pure individuals. Nevertheless, a politician should be loyal to a common vision and the common good.

Finally, following Thucydides argument, despite his/her cleverness, communication and patriotism may not act as a proof against bribery. Everybody can have his/her price. Then integrity is a virtue sine qua non.

Let’s now put macro-regions in context.

Is a ‘Macroregional strategy’ able to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to some EU Member States and third countries located in the same neighborhood in order to achieve economic, social and territorial cohesion?

If the answer is yes, then we have to convince citizens on that assumption. If we have both, the next question is if there is a macro-region type of patriotism?

Lastly, since Brussels is largely perceived, probably wrongly or partly wrongly, as a bureaucratic self-interested apparatus, ownership depends on the integrity of national and sub-national leaders of the macro-regional actors.

While looking answers to these questions, let me contribute again through Thukydides .

I am of this opinion, that the public prosperity of the city is better for private men, than if the private men themselves were in prosperity and the public wealth in collapse.For a private man in good estate, if his country comes to ruin, he will inevitably be ruined with it. Whereas he that fails in a flourishing commonwealth shall much more easily be preserved.Since then the commonwealth is able to bear the calamities of private men, and everyone cannot support the calamities of the commonwealth, why should not everyone strive to defend it?

As part of civil society and the NGOs world we all bear the same thought as Thucydides and for the need to commit ourselves to common visions, engagements and projects. We need to make more effort to defend the value of the commonwealth macro-regions for ordinary citizens, both for the well-intended and for the indifferent ones, we. Ordinary citizens usually ask, either explicit or tacit: what will be my gain?

The answer is two-fold: the big picture and best practices combined to lessons learnt.

First, we have to illustrate that the grand on-going global challenges cannot be solved by single cities, regions or countries individually. They need a collective response. The European Union in its way towards a federal democracy, a political union, is one answer. However, the macro-regional level can in many cases be the appropriate level, as collective answers there can be more concrete than at EU level, although the field is sufficiently large so that collective answers, above and beyond one single state can make a difference. This is a kind of territorially selective supra-nationalism, beyond that of state selfishness and Brussels “super-statism”.

This requires a sharing of common visions regarding our common future, and that these visions are linked to concrete actions. The notion of “macro-regional impact” needs to be further specified, and concrete ways of measuring it should be proposed. At the heart of success is understanding and being able to use the web of multi-level governance structures in a project driven reality. Macro Regional Strategies can be the answer to the need of a more integrative approach to cooperation within the EU, contributing to more targeted solutions and a common ownership[ii].

Secondly, we need to find how to handle lessons learned and good practices. Lessons learned describe constraints as key success factors. Key success factorsare the elements that will determine whether the practice can be described as a “good practice”. These factors will allow emergence of solutions and innovations found in order to remove the constraints encountered during the experience and learn from failures. Lessons learned are key success factors, instead good practices are success stories.A lesson learned is knowledge or understanding gained by experience that has a significant impact. The experience may be either positive or negative.

Lessons are knowledge, which come from experience, and that they can help, or impact, the work of others. But does that make them "Learned"? Let's look at the steps a lesson has to go through before it can be considered to be "Learned":
1. Reflect on Experience. Think back, and discuss individually or as a team what really happened.
2. Identify learning points. Where was the difference between what was planned, and what actually happened? Either a positive or a negative difference.
3. Analyse. Why was there a difference? What were the root causes?
4. Generalise. What is the learning point? What should be done in future activity to avoid the pitfall, or repeat the success? At this stage we have identified a lesson. It will be a useful lesson, if others can learn from it. And in order for others to learn from it, it needs to be instructional.

Let me mention only the title of four of the ADRION (Ardiatica Ionion) Interreg projects which have been approved under the first call of proposals. I invite you to think if these projects fulfill the four conditions of Thucydides and in which extent. Please focus more particularly to the communicative virtue of each one of these projects.

1. SUstainable Ports in the Adriatic-Ionian Region – SUPAIR, Italy

2. Building the ADRION Brand Name in Tourism: Indulging all Five Senses –ADRION five senses, Greece

3. Sustainable management and promotion of common cultural heritage –Smart Heritage, Croatia

4. FirSt and last Mile Inter-modal mobiLity in congested urban arEas of Adrion Region, -SMILE, Slovenia

Let’s think about these projects.

In Greece we have a saying: instead of being given a got myself, I would rather prefer to see my neighbor’s goat dying. There are still citizens who think that way, because envy is predominant to their own well-being. I think that this can be found anywhere in the world, and this is what we have as civil society and active citizens to fight against. To define the appropriate answers, it first needs to develop a vision of what we want our common future to look like and the knowledge on how to achieve it. Macro-regional strategies provide a platform for developing such shared visions and knowledge about our future.

To conclude, Europe is changing and faces new global trends and grand internal challenges, bigger that elsewhere. In these turbulent but also particularly interdependent and collaborative times, macro-regional strategies hold the potential to push for appropriate answers at this level of governance, although not yet widely perceived as really necessary.

Defending EU macro –regions is then one of our civic and pro-European commitments.

Yours in liberty, federalism and civil society.


[1] Speech "The art of communication. Best practices in reaching out ordinary citizens for the benefit of macro-regional strategies" in the Conference "CITIZENS' VOICE: Together. Stronger. A civil society agora in preparation of the 6th Annual Forum of EUSDR". Budapest, New Town Hall, 29 September 2017.

[i] "A man possessing that knowledge without that faculty of exposition might as well have no idea at all on the matter: if he had both these gifts, but no love for his country, he would be but a cold advocate for her interests; while were his patriotism not proof against bribery, everything would go for a price".

[ii] Macro-regional strategies in changing times. EUSBSR, EUSDR, EUSALP and EUSAIR

headed towards the future together. European Regional Development Fund. October 2016.

[1] Speech "The art of communication. Best practices in reaching out ordinary citizens for the benefit of macro-regional strategies" in the Conference "CITIZENS' VOICE: Together. Stronger. A civil society agora in preparation of the 6th Annual Forum of EUSDR". Budapest, New Town Hall, 29 September 2017.

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