BSF panel discusses EEZs in Adriatic Sea, port cooperation

Bled – A high-profile panel on cooperation in the Adriatic Sea as part of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) revolved around the emerging exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and cooperation of the Slovenian, Croatian and Italian ports.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said the idea of Croatia declaring an EEZ in the Adriatic Sea had been a very important issue, and a politically sensitive one since it had been presented, prompting trilateral meetings with representatives of Italy.

“When we agreed everything, we stepped together and signed a declaration and showed how it is possible for the three neighbouring countries that have something very precious and important in common to cooperate,” he added.

Logar believes that the countries’ economies and maritime ports can both compete and cooperate, while also finding a way to protect the marine ecosystems from pollution while enabling economies to grow and evolve and maritime paths to expand.

Croatian FM Gordan Grlić-Radman noted that the Adriatic Sea was the bedrock of culture and tradition for all three nations, and that the Croatian exclusive economic zone was actually a step towards protecting the marine environment and heritage.

He also noted that environmental protection was an important segment of the European Green Deal, and that these discussions would be continued as part of the EU Med Group, to which Slovenia and Croatia are expected to be formally invited in mid-September.

Italian FM Luigi di Maio was not able to take part via videoconference as originally planned.

The debate also revolved around the cooperation of the ports of Trieste, Rijeka and Koper.

Zeno D’Agostino of the Port Network Authority of the Eastern Adriatic Sea pointed out that, as investments in the railways around all three ports were increasing in order to accommodate growing container transshipment, a green approach was needed. The ports also need to invest in knowledge and technology.

“The real infrastructure is in our heads, we are investing in knowledge and this is where we cooperate a lot,” D’Agostino said, urging for a undersea cable from the Suez Canal to the Adriatic Sea to be set up to make the ports technological hubs.

Luka Koper CEO Dimitrij Zadel said that the three ports have green policies in mind and, and while they cannot cooperate in operational and strategic terms, they could work together on environmental issues.

“We are not enemies as someone would like to prove, we can discuss everything,” he said, adding that a lot had been done in the past for the Adriatic Sea from this point of view and now there was also the trilateral political level.