The added value of the Macro Regional Strategies to EU-funded projects: The case of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian Region (EUSAIR)
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The EU Macro Regional Strategies (MRS) are a relatively new and innovative policy tool to strengthen the macro-regional integration within and above the borders of the European Union. Over the past years, such Strategies gained more importance and by today, 19 EU Member States and 8 non-EU states are involved in these frameworks. Considering the growing importance of MRS, it is surprising that, until today, the real added value of the MRS has not been researched and literature only focusses on explaining the Strategies’ functioning in terms of governance structure. Conducting a case study on the Adriatic Ionian Region (EUSAIR), I want to contribute to better evaluation and monitoring options of MRS. My detailed analysis of the most Southern Macro Region includes an analysis of web pages, the evaluation of a questionnaire which was administered to a wide range of project leaders, and results from the 3rd EUSAIR Annual Forum in May 2018. The analysis shows that the EUSAIR does not add any value in terms of improved networking and knowledge-sharing practices for the projects' stakeholders. Moreover, it results that the projects link themselves to the Strategy in the hope of having more or better funding opportunities. The overall conclusion is that the EUSAIR does not add value to the projects ongoing in the current programming period To improve the contribution of the EUSAIR to the EU-funded projects on the Adriatic Ionian macro-region, a more active role of all the involved actors is required. The National Coordinators shall encourage the debate over the topics to be solved on a macro-regional level and advertise best-practice examples of projects addressing relevant issues for the Strategy. The Thematic Coordinators shall increase the number of networking events and give more support to the projects' partners. Finally, the Commission should establish clear and transparent criteria to monitor and evaluate the Strategies.