A step towards maturing the Smart Islands Initiative
The first Smart Islands Forum was hosted in Athens on 21 and 22 June at the initiative of the DAFNI Network of Sustainable Aegean and Ionian Islands and the Aegean Energy Agency.
The Forum gathered representatives of island local and regional authorities and actors from 13 countries, namely Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. The UK was represented by Ian Stephen, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Camille Dressler from the Scottish Islands Federation and Felix Wight of Community Energy Scotland.
It was supported by the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE), the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and the Covenant of Mayors Office .
The 42 European island representatives were joined by organizations with an interest in the potential carried by islands including 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, the Greek Energy Forum and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ). The Islands Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions also addressed the Forum.
Bottom up process to define further the Smart Islands Initiative
The Forum was a bottom-up process offering island local and regional authorities the chance to mature the Smart Islands Initiative, which comes as a continuation of years of collaboration among European islands with the support of the European Union, including the successful SMILEGOV project.
The Smart Islands Initiative, inspired by the Smart Cities and Communities initiative, represents an excellent opportunity for island authorities to devise a place-based, transformative development agenda that taps into islands’ competitive advantages, generates local growth and prosperity, and helps the EU meet the goals it has set in a number of policy areas, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, innovation, circular economy, sustainable transport and mobility.
During the Forum island representatives engaged in a collective process of drafting the Smart Islands Declaration, which outlines the aspirations on the role, challenges and potential of islands to become models of a smart, sustainable and inclusive development paradigm.
In the coming months Forum participants agreed to have Quadruple Helix actors ( Local Authorities and local actors as well as Academic institutions as well as businesses) from respective islands endorse the Declaration in order to ensure all existing synergies are exploited through broad stakeholder engagement.
Brussels event scheduled for Autumn 2016
Further, participants expressed their commitment to organize an event late autumn in Brussels to present the Smart Islands Declaration among EU institutions and stakeholders, showcase island lighthouse projects and exchange views with policy makers on islands’ potential to drive Europe’s transition into a low-carbon, resource-efficient, circular and inclusive economy.
Last but not least participants discussed the possibility to set up a platform of EU island authorities and actors in Brussels that will advocate in favour of island affairs and facilitate partnerships for the realization of EU projects on islands. The platform was also well perceived as a structure to support the Pact of Islands Secretariat in strong collaboration with the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
Ultimately the first Smart Islands Forum was a success in that it offered the opportunity to extend the European family of islands and inspired participants to turn this first gathering into an annual event dedicated to EU islands cooperation.