The National Agency for Scientific Research and Innovation (NASRI) from Albania as a partner in the implementation of the international project “Blue Growth Smart Adriatic Ionian – BLUEAIR”, on 22 -24 February 2023, organized a hybrid conference “Moving towards an Innovation Community on Sustainable Blue Economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region”.

The three-day meeting brought together project partners, foreign international experts and speakers who, through several presentations and panel discussions, contributed to a better understanding and recognition of the importance of transnational cooperation and action in S3 across the Adriatic-Ionian area, harmonization of the institutional framework, as well as the importance of the macro-regional innovation community for sustainable blue economy.

Albana Tole, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports of the Republic of Albania, in her opening speech, greeted the participants and pointed out her pleasure that by attending such an event, she will discuss the topic of sustainable blue economy with relevant representatives of institutions from the region, which is also one of the most priority areas of the ministry she represents. “Seeing BlueAir project partners in this project and collaborations that we will have with countries that have already developed tourism at very pleasant level makes me feel optimistic that it will be very useful for us as well to drow even further“, emphasized Deputy Minister of Education and Sports of the Republic of Albania, Mrs. Tole.

Mirela Muca, executive director of NASRI, welcomed the participants of the conference, emphasizing that thanks to the BlueAir project, the blue economy in Albania will take a step further in overcoming three main challenges, which, among other things, were the subject of discussion within the conference, and concern: the importance means of the blue economy in Albania and how sustainable patterns in the past have influenced their formation, the chances provided by the further development of the blue economy, as well as the necessary political decisions that will facilitate the transition to a sustainable blue economy.

The Head of the Joint Secretariat of Interreg ADRION Programme, Barbara Di Piazza, highlighted that the BlueAir project promotes the development of the blue economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region, as well as the tools that influence the realization of that goal. Mrs. Di Piazza emphasized that the Adriatic-Ionian Program in the new call for projects proposals has expanded its geographical area to two new countries, North Macedonia and San Marino, continuing to support innovation and building a healthy natural environment in the region. In this direction, the Program will promote the development of smart S3 specialization, sustainable maritime and maritime activities, and the fight against man-made disasters in maritime area.

The participants of the event agreed that in the coming period special emphasis must be placed on encouraging young people and new generations to work in the blue sector, encouraging ideas, creativity and initiatives, and strengthening and enabling financial frameworks and mechanisms to create in this area, in order to have adapted to the needs of the market.

The event ended with a visit by the participants to the “Rozafa Fish City” complex in Elbasan, the largest fishing company in Albania with a fleet of 12 fishing vessels, 4 important processing centers and over 1000 employees, where they learned about the company’s activities related to the blue economy.

The BlueAir project is financed under the Interreg ADRION program, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the IPA II Fund.