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Strait of Messina celebrates the European Maritime Day

Published the 8 July 2016

On May 11th 2016, at the Department of Architecture of the Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, a Roundtable on the Area of the Strait of Messina and development potential from integrated planning of coastal zones was held.  The event is part of the initiatives promoted by the European Commission promoting European Maritime Day.

The European Maritime Day

In 2008, the European Union established this day, dedicated to the opportunity of growth and development from the maritime sector.  The event, which takes place annually, 20th May, in different countries from around the European Union, aims at bringing together all those who, in various ways, are interested in Blue Growth, and are interested in constructive dialogue in an attempt to identify good practices.

The Stakeholders’ Conference is the main event, and foresees the participation of European, national and local authorities, businessmen, scholars and researchers, each contributing diverse fields of interest. This year the conference took place in Turku, Finland, and the theme chosen by the government of Finland, in agreement with the European Commission for the Seas is: Investing in Competitive Blue Growth – smart and sustainable solutions.  The numerous participants will be reflecting and discussing this theme with conferences, workshops, a networking village, B2B meetings and photographic competitions.

A roundtable on the Strait of Messina

The Roundtable, organized by Francesca Moraci and Alessandra Barresi, professors in Urban Planning, from the dArTe - Department, Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, is part of the Events in Europe initiative from European Maritime Day 2016, and proposes some brainstorming on the role that Blue Growth could have on sustainable development in the area of the Strait of Messina.

The area of the Strait, in which we live, is a crucial area in the Euro-Mediterranean geographic system, and is characterized by the two metropolitan towns which face each other, Reggio Calabria and Messina. Both boast a long extension of coastal zone, so much so as to have the entire Metropolitan Area of the Strait considered as one of the longest extensions of coastal zone in all of Europe.

After the opening greetings from the Pro-rector, Prof. Claudio de Capua, the Director of dArTe, Prof. Gianfranco Neri, once again stressed the need to go beyond hyper-specialization and pass to a more integrated, complex scientific approach. Alessandra Barresi then opened the proceedings stressing the main objectives of European Maritime Day, outlining the intentions of the founders, that is, facilitating awareness campaigns and networking on opportunities for development from Blue Growth.

Francesca Moraci, who chaired the proceedings of the entire roundtable, from the start reinforced two fundamental concepts, that is, the need for knowledge as the engine of innovation and as a concealed infrastructure to overcome the huge delays in development in the territory, and the inevitability of the close link between business, tourism, culture and management of the territory, both regarding ordinary matters and extraordinary and strategic issues.

The Roundtable welcomed contributions from experts from ambits which are diverse but united by the same interest for the opportunities of sustained development from the maritime sector.  These included the scientific area, with contributions from Francesco Karrer and Michele Trimarchi; the political sphere – National government, from the Staff of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Dr. Vanda Rebuffat; from local political-administration, the President of the Province of Reggio Calabria, Giuseppe Raffa, and the councillor for Town Planning from Reggio Calabria, Dr. Agata Quattrone; from business, the vice-chairman of Confindustria (Italian Business Association) Reggio Calabria, Filippo Arecchi; stakeholders, whose points of view were represented by the Chairman of the Port Authority of Messina, Antonino De Simone, and finally, a representative from the tourism/cultural sector, with the Touring Club Italiano Consul for Calabria, Dr. Cappellano.

The undersecretary for Culture, Dorina Bianchi, could not be present but sent a paper which, besides expressing all her appreciation for an initiative which is so rich in content, presents some considerations on work which the government and MIBACT are working on to ensure the metropolitan city of Reggio and the area of the Strait have the opportunity to grow and develop.

Some invited contributions from lecturers and researchers from the university - Fazia, Laganà, Pultrone, Russo, Tornatora – briefly illustrated the state-of-the-art of part of the research which is being carried on by dArTe on the theme of development of the integrated area of the Strait.

Professor Francesco Karrer, whose task was to close the days works, stressed how, to tackle the current high level of pressure caused by incessant building activity along the coast, the main issues for indispensible structural planning are key zones and competition in the building sector.  He dwelt on the complexity that integrated planning along the costal zone (ICZM) creates in legal and administration terms in the national planning system, hence the difficulties in planning the management.  Integration must be seen in terms of subsidiarity and institutional cooperation, both horizontally and vertically. 

The costal zone of the area of the Strait is characterized by its strategic position in Italy and Europe, and its environmental and landscape value, that involves the urban/metropolitan system of the Strait of Messina.  Costal activities (fishing, bathing, tourism, port activities and so on) blend with urban activities, with local and national mobility, with historic and identity-giving values of the territory, with the multi-functional dimension of the costal zone which identifies resources and their use in business, economic and touristic terms. The costal zone, from the point of view of harmonizing sea and land, therefore, could constitute a unique opportunity, and source of wealth for the two metropolitan towns of Reggio Calabria and Messina, if it is possible to organize a common strategic feature, uniting this to the needs of the towns and the maritime sector, and the enhancement and exploitation of resources.  To fulfil this vision, the current respective urban planning instruments are not sufficient, although they are indispensible, nor is the strategic plan of each metropolitan town. Rather, an inter-regional strategy should be shared, which could be set up from the recent Area of the Strait conference (6th May 2016) and an integrated process, better known as Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), that is, the management of costal zones with an integrated approach which takes into consideration all the aspects which are compatible and/or in conflict with the possible activities of the costal zone, with the aim of achieving adequate levels of sustainable development and monitoring of accumulative impacts, costal erosion and social and environmental safety.  Naturally, strategy must prevail in the choices, along with ensuring normal functions, linking the towns and their territories in equilibrium with the towns of the metropolitan hinterland and optimizing the use of the Strait. This vision has often been conflictual and left unresolved, from a strategic point of view, not taking into account a timid attempt – the waterfront – while the issue is, in fact, structural and not limited to State property. Therefore, the Port Authorities of the two towns should interact and come into line with European guidelines, and giving the area of the Strait a new identity.

To date, the economy of the Area of the Strait has not obtained any great advantage from its costal heritage for lack of infrastructure that is adequate for the territory itself, and due to a low level of awareness of cultural identity.  In this historic moment in which the EU recognizes the development potential deriving from the seas and costal areas, as highlighted in the declaration of European ministers for an integrated policy on the seas, agreed in Cyprus in 2012, known as the Declaration of Limassol, it is necessary to have the tools to exploit this opportunity -  an opportunity which is further facilitated by the particular attention that the EU is showing for the geographical areas that belong to the European Straits.  The current situation of low enhancement of tourism in the south must be reversed; a land rich in culture, archaeological heritage, enchanting sea and costal towns, unable to attract tourists who visit Italy, of whom only 15% come to the south.  

Alessandra Barresi and Francesca Moraci


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