Two months ago, I arrived in “la dotta, la grassa, la rossa”, “the erudite, the fat, the red one”, in other words, the city of Bologna, in the north of Italy. Known for its historical universities -the very first one in Europe-, culinary tradition – from Bolognese dishes to parmesan, etc…-, and red bricks buildings (and also left-wing leanings), it is a beautiful and lively town, at the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, hosting its administrative quarters.
It is where I got the opportunity to assist the Region’s European Politics Office, which takes part in several INTERREG programs, and is in particular the National Contact Point for Italy in the INTERREG MED program. Linking 56 regions of 13 European states, it supports the development of innovative concepts and practices to promote sustainable growth in the northern shore of the Mediterranean. 91 projects were born around four priority axis - Innovation, Low-Carbon Economy, Natural and Cultural Resources, and Governance-, and created a quite varied and incredibly interesting to discover cooperative community.
These few months allowed me to read a lot about the different activities led by the participants, and beyond them, about the most relevant and prioritised topics by these communities, the issues and challenges that they are facing now, and the innovative local and regional solutions: urban agriculture, mass tourism and its necessary sustainable alternatives, low carbon transportation, …etc.
Being an Interreg volunteer also means having the opportunity to meet some of the architects and decision-makers of the projects: through interviews for IVY, and upon assisting in the organisation of steering and monitoring committees, where the regional and national officials, the executive authorities of the program and the European Commission, meet to progressively debate and build INTERREG MED. There can be witnessed the collective discussion around its administrative, political and technical parameters, and above all, the concrete and challenging collaboration between these many countries and their sometimes divergent interests.
Through analysing and preparing studies on the ER region’s participation in the projects, or following a communication workshop organised by the office, I have been taken by the discovery of the work and innovative solutions existing in our local organisations, and thus the incredible potential of change carried by transnational cooperation.