The First Annual Assembly of the Blue Growth Community was held in Montpellier on the 4th and 5th of February 2020, in parallel to the Intermediterranean Commission (IMC) Political Bureau. The meeting gathered multi-level decision makers, private sector actors, entrepreneurs, experts, researchers and Interreg programme bodies coming from all over the Mediterranean, to present and discuss policy recommendations on blue economy sectors in the Mediterranean. Several IMC regions were represented on this occasion.

After three years of execution under the InnoBlueGrowth project, now called Blue Growth Community, the Assembly set up a fresh series of recommendations and welcomed new project members for the coming phase (2019-2022). In this new phase, the Community will focus its efforts on deepening the dissemination and transferability of thematic projects results working on specific themes including maritime surveillance, yachting, renewable energies, aquaculture, fisheries, maritime and coastal tourism, etc.

Seven key policy recommendations included in the Community’s Policy Paper were discussed in various panels, representing the occasion for the Blue Growth Community to explore practical applications and implementation perspectives in regional contexts.

In the first panel, the Assembly focused on the sustainability dimension of the blue economy. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region presented the Italian national strategy concerning this issue and its application in its territory. The National Agency of Natural Resources of Albania also presented all the existing and future efforts in terms of sustainable tourism in the country that will be undertaken by the Albanian government. A last presentation focused on the strategy of the Occitanie Region towards a more sustainable blue economy. The three panellists stressed the necessity to keep the balance between environment protection and economic development.

A special focus was then given on synergies and cooperation between Mediterranean countries with the presentation of four Mediterranean clusters working on blue economy. For instance, the Interreg MISTRAL project was presented by the Balearic Maritime Cluster. The project set up several start-ups’ accelerators, fostered synergies between start-ups and big companies, and organised trainings to become a “business angel”.

Coastal and maritime planning was also an important topic discussed during the Assembly. For this reason, the need of harmonisation of national legislations as well as the development of data exchanges and technology were strongly underlined by several regional representatives. The valorisation of aquaculture and fishing activities was also highlighted as a relevant sector to coastal and maritime planning, and should be fully considered by the Community for deeper analyses.

The last panel presented the importance of education and awareness-raising on the sustainable blue economy sector. Several Mediterranean Universities’ representatives presented their own good practices through existing projects such as BLUE DEAL (spin-off of the MAESTRALE project), led by the University of Siena in Italy, or the BLUE FASMA project presented by the University of Patras in Greece. Both projects, respectively focused on marine energies and fisheries and aquaculture, aim to raise awareness on the potential of these sectors, provide tailor-made and efficient trainings to students and enhance synergies between the different categories of stakeholders.

The second day of the Assembly was dedicated to the setup of the Advisory Board of the community. Thanks to the participation of associated partners and regional governance bodies who contributed by presenting existing projects and good practices, the Assembly could focus on capitalisation of results and recommendations for mainstreaming. The aim of the Advisory Board is to identify relevant tools to be capitalised on among the community, foster exchange of best practices among the different stakeholders and encourage local and regional administrations to replicate this tool so as to upgrade their own strategies.

At the end of the Advisory Board, the Occitanie Region also welcomed the meeting of the Intermediterranean Commission’s Political Bureau to discuss its ongoing works, projects, and members’ priorities in view of its General Assembly (next May 19-20, 2020 in Sevilla).

With a special focus on regional Mediterranean initiatives and frameworks running on blue sustainability, these two days of Blue Growth Community Assembly helped define the role of the Community and take the first steps towards transferring and mainstreaming blue growth projects’ results into multi-level policies. The Community will continue to build its reflections towards the implementation of a sustainable blue economy in the Mediterranean and strengthen its links with multi-level key actors of blue sectors. This first Assembly was a fruitful opportunity to seek more integration with other communities of stakeholders, while reaching cross-cutting results to tackle common challenges in the Mediterranean.