As noted at the opening of the Forum by Georgios Patoulis, President of KEDE, strengthening the institutional role of local government in the islands and expanding their economic potential are prerequisites for achieving the objective of sustainable development in island regions both in Greece and in Europe.
On her part, Nicole Katsioulis, Head of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) Office in Greece, and one of the co-hosts, noted that the Smart Islands Forum is an opportunity to promote at European level the potential of island regions for innovative, environmentally-friendly and financially advantageous applications in areas such as renewable energy sources, energy saving, smart grids, green transport, water and waste management, alternative tourism, sustainable agriculture and blue growth.
The initiative of the Forum was also welcomed by Gerasimos Damoulakis, Mayor of Milos and Chairman of KEDE’s Tourism Committee, and Alexandros Parissis, President of the Union of Municipalities from the Ionian Sea. Representatives from the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Small Islands Federation, the Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the European Union, and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) also participated in the two-day meeting. On the part of the organizers, the Aegean Energy Bureau was represented by its director Elias Efthymiopoulos, while the DAFNI Network was represented by its coordinator Kostas Komninos.
The Forum has provided island and local authorities with the opportunity to further progress the Smart Islands Initiative, as a natural follow-up to the systematic and long cooperation that the European Islands have developed with the assistance of the European Union. The Smart Islands Initiativedraws inspiration from the Smart Cities and Communities Initiativeand can greatly help island authorities to develop an integrated, localised and transformative development agenda that utilises the comparative advantages of islands, generates sustainable local development and prosperity, while helping the European Union to achieve the targets it has set in various policy domains, such as the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, innovation, circular economy, sustainable transport and mobility, etc.
A building block of the Forum has been the collective drafting of the Smart Islands Declaration, a text that enables local people to outline their aspirations on the role, challenges and potential of islands to become models of a smart, sustainable and inclusive development paradigm. The participants agreed to communicate the content of the Declaration to local authorities as well as to representatives of the private sector, the academia and civil society of the individual islands to ensure the use of all possible synergies through the widest possible consultation of stakeholders.
At the same time, participants decided to organise an event in late autumn in Brussels to present the Smart Islands Declarationto the European institutions and stakeholders involved, to inform about innovative projects already taking place in European islands and to discuss with policy-makers about the potential of islands to contribute to Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon, circular and inclusive economy.
Finally, another point of discussion was the need to establish a co-ordinating body to promote the interests of local island authorities and bodies at European level, to facilitate partnerships for project implementation in the European islands and to act as support to the Pact of Islands Secretariat in close cooperation with the new Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy.