Cities of Tomorrow | Action Today


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The most important milestone of the URBACT capitalisation process will take place in Brussels, at the Albert Borschette Conference Centre of the European Commission (36 rue Froissart, B-1040 Brussels) on Tuesday 18 June 2013.
The launch of the long awaited URBACT thematic reports “Cities of Tomorrow: Action Today” has been organised with support of Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission and will host, among others, a speech by Commissioner Hahn.
The six reports covers the range of challenges European cities are facing today, demonstrating that an integrated and participative approach is required, to achieve the environmental, social and economic targets of EU 2020 strategy.
The launch event will include a panel debate with URBACT experts and EU political representatives and a networking lunch, where participants will have a chance to meet the report authors. Come and debate the big issues facing European cities with our expert panel and take the opportunity to submit your own questions. 
  • How can cities drive a sustainable economic recovery?
  • How do cities tackle challenges such as carbon targets and growing inequalities?
  • How are ageing populations and migration changing our cities?
  • What are the policies that will help cities to innovate, harness local talent and resources, and ultimately to survive the crisis?
  • And how can the new ideas related to the ongoing discussions on new Cohesion Policy ideas and tools, such as Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI) and Community Lead Local Development (CLLD)?
To secure your place, please, complete the registration form available at the following link – The deadline for registration is 10 June.

European Cities in Energy Transition | Key Messages from URBACT

Meanwhile the thematic paper is in the final editing/layout phase, at the end of April I started the dissemination activities participating to the Energy Cities Rendezvous in Växjö.

Well Designed and Built

Since its establishment in 1990 Energy Cities provides advice to cities on how to improve their energy profile, at the same time making pressure at national and European level for coherent and stringent policy framework. This year the Annual rendez-vous focused on “Building the Energy Transition”.

The event was co-organised with the City of Växjö and the association of Swedish municipalities, counties and regions actively working to reduce CO2 emissions (Klimatkommunerna) in collaboration with Linnaeus University.


I was invited to bring the findings of the URBACT projects dealing with energy efficiency and those of the workstream Building energy efficiency in European cities to the Annual rendez-vous, which took place in Växjö, Sweden on the 24th-26th of April.

Now that all presentations, photos and even videos of the conference are online I would like to summarize a few messages from the conference and the key…

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Sara Van Rompaey about heritage and sustainability in the EU


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Considering the characteristics of European cities, energy efficiency in historic buildings stands out as one of the main problems for urban policies farsighted. Sara van Rompaey illustrated a simple handbook of strategies and main programs that deal with this issue.

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historic buildings (pre 1945) are 10% of building stock

guidelines for simple solutions to avoid irreversible damages

box in a box

interior insulation

roof: invisible insulation

windows: new interior windows; films;

high insulation single glass (expensive)



Reports from Copenhagen workshops: 2)Tackling fuel poverty, reducing the energy bill – By Paul Ciniglio


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2012-12-03 15.56.37

Facilitator: Paul Ciniglio, 
First Wessex

Fuel poverty can be defined as the inability to keep a home adequately warm at an affordable cost. A common definition of fuel poverty, used in several European countries, is where a household pays more than 10% of its disposable income on annual fuel bills. Recent studies undertaken in Western Europe reveal that 12% of all households are living in fuel poverty by this definition.

Fuel poverty is particularly prevalent in Europe’s social housing sector, representing some 25 million homes, as occupants are typically on lower than average national household incomes. The issue however, is certainly not limited just too social housing and it is estimated that tens of millions of people across the continent are adversely affected by the situation. Fuel poverty is heavily influenced by the combination of the energy performance of a home and household income, although external factors such as energy supply prices also have an impact.

The effects of fuel poverty can be drastic with poor health extremely common amongst those caught in the trap and thousands of excess winter deaths occurring every year, especially amongst the elderly. Many households are today facing the unacceptable stark choice of simply whether to ‘heat or eat’. In many regions the demand for ‘affordable cooling’ is growing and adding to overall household running costs.

While there is growing awareness and understanding of fuel poverty and its causes, the issue is not clearly defined in every European country even though similar problems are observed such as unpaid energy bills, an increased burden on health services, under heating and self-disconnecting from fuel supplies. It is unlikely that a common measurement of fuel poverty that works throughout the EU could easily be adopted. Set against increasing energy costs and static household incomes, the 10% definition would even appear to be in need of urgent review.

The ‘tackling fuel poverty’ workshop will explore the issues, the extent of the problem and how it can best be alleviated through questions and interactive discussion that will bring the problems together with possible solutions. The workshop findings will feed into the Work Stream 6 policy recommendations.

Questions (5 mins introduction to workshop followed by 5 mins debate per question):

  1. What can cities most effectively do to tackle fuel poverty today? Reference can be made to project examples & campaigns that have been used successfully in the EU.

  2. If an increase in fuel poverty is inevitable, what are the main social, economic and environmental burdens that will be placed on society and cities in the future? Consider if the cost of tackling the problem properly now is likely to be more affordable than dealing with the consequences later?

  3. To address the urgency of the issue during current economic conditions, should priority action be focused on addressing occupant behaviour or the more expensive physical retrofitting of energy efficiency measures in order to alleviate fuel poverty?

  4. What are the key policy recommendations cities should be making to decision makers?

Feedback from workshop 1 & 2

  1. What can cities most effectively do to tackle fuel poverty today?

  • Undertake or lead on fuel poverty city mapping study e.g. establish energy efficiency performance of homes and overlay social and economic data in order to be able to target resources to tackle the problem most effectively.

  • Develop a city Fuel Poverty strategy, plan early and for the long term and retain control.

  • Organising and or leading ‘Energy behaviour change’ programmes.

  • Formulate local methods of defining, ascertaining and measuring fuel poverty consistently.

  • Focus on local energy supplies sources and innovation e.g. Biomass, Hydrogen, Geothermal, district heat networks, community renewables etc and seek switching to obtain best supply prices.

  • Control as a city the production and supply of energy e.g. ownership of local energy plant and distribution networks.

  • Take the lead in establishing bulk procurement of energy supplies locally and consider seasonal purchasing e.g. fuel can be cheaper in summer. Similarly bulk purchase of products such as insulation, solar panels etc. Role for ESCO’s and collective switching initiatives. The economics can work e.g. Germany.

  • Establish and advise on what are acceptable standards of performance, best practice, robust technical standards & specifications suitable for different house types and constructions.

  • Offer financial subsidy payments or improvement loans to those households most in need / most vulnerable.

  • Communicate clearly all available grants, loans and subsidies e.g. Gent booklet.

  • Use national or local legislation to take advantage of void homes (those about to be re-let) to improve the energy performance standard e.g. in Ireland min EPC band C1.

  • Recruit and train volunteers in retrofitting techniques or community energy efficiency advice.

  • Provide simple easily understood advice and concentrate on cost effective measures.

  • Link the need to improve housing quality with energy efficiency improvements.

  • Focus on the specific needs of families and understand that fuel poverty is a dynamic / moving target and will invariably be harder to identify in private sector housing.

  • Determine when fuel poverty is better tackled on an individual basis or a community level.

  • Installing individual meters and smart meters in blocks of flats to make consumers more accountable for energy use. Understanding how problematic communal areas of flats can be improved in energy efficiency terms. Legal / ownership perspective to consider.

  • Recognise that energy inefficient homes can lead to under utilisation of housing generally.

  1. If an increase in fuel poverty is inevitable, what are the main social, economic and environmental burdens that will be placed on society and cities in the future?

  • Understanding who pays for the consequences is a problem? It was said it is everyone’s problem and everyone in society must take responsible ownership. However, the problem is not high on most citizen’s agenda. How high do energy supply prices need to reach before the problem is taken seriously and tackled voluntarily?

  • Need to consider longer term energy dependence.

  • Problems of social exclusion / social cohesion will be exacerbated if problem is tackled.

  • Understand the costs and impacts on health services, child poverty, educational attainment etc.

  • Need to get the balance between energy efficiency measures in the home (hardware) and behaviour change correct (software) correct if efforts are to work. Benefit v effort in saving energy.

  • Implications of charging higher rents for more energy efficient homes was discussed e.g. Dutch warm rent system versus not being possible to increase rent in UK social housing. Local taxes redistributed for retrofit purposes e.g. Sweden.

  • Improved understanding of how / if energy efficient retrofit affects the value of housing.

  • Need to plan now and take a long term view. An alternative is possible to achieve.

  • City heat island effect needs to be considered.

  1. To address the urgency of the issue during current economic conditions, should priority action be focused on addressing occupant behaviour or the more expensive physical retrofitting of energy efficiency measures in order to alleviate fuel poverty?

  • Consensus was that both need to be tackled and ideally simultaneously. They can not be separated (both hardware and software must work together).

  • Best practice examples of retrofit achieving deep cuts e.g. open show homes raises awareness and helps action to be replicated. Every major city or town should have a show home open to public as more examples are needed.

  • Tackling only behaviour change doesn’t begin to address the scale of the issue of reducing the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions.

  • What is the role of housing retrofit versus decarbonisation of fuel supplies in reaching EU emission reduction targets?

  • Behaviour change can cost nothing and save a lot. Simple choices can be made to help ones self. A change in attitude is needed. This should begin in schools it may need a generation before it is commonly taken seriously enough.

  • The issue isn’t purely about saving money on running costs or tackling climate change, it is health, child poverty etc because our long term survival is at stake.

  • Long term energy security must urgently be addressed.

  • Scaling up retrofit work has massive job creation potential.

  • Can young people for example be trained up to voluntarily provide energy efficiency and lifestyle advice to build a sense of responsibility and to obtain new life skills?

  • Tackling fuel poverty is a priority for some city authorities e.g. Manchester.

  • Problems of engaging people need to be overcome. Understanding group behaviour / dynamic needs to be improved.

  • Campaigns must be followed up with effective evaluation and need to be on going campaigns.

  • Make the benefits of behaviour change and deep retrofit visible through clear communication.

  • Supply chains need to mature.

  1. What are the key policy recommendations cities should be making to decision makers?

  • Tackling fuel poverty is an URGENT problem, move now and follow through with real action!

  • Make energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty a priority for ERDF. Long term ERDF programmes are needed with project legacy. Don’t overlook private / private rented housing!

  • Cities should take a lead on energy supply procurement / ownership / distribution networks etc and link local resources and innovation that is available with the solution. A territorial approach. Consider city clusters acting together. Remove power from the national energy suppliers. Make energy more affordable as a result of action to drive demand and change.

  • Cities must locally define, assess, measure and monitor fuel poverty (it isn’t possible to have a universal definition in the EU).

  • Upgrade the aspirations of the Covenant of Mayors in order to fully address retrofit and fuel poverty in housing.

  • Campaigning of the importance of tackling retrofit seriously now is needed e.g. mobility has benefitted from greater campaigning efforts. Give energy efficiency a public face across all policy measures!

  • Link retrofit strategies to job creation strategies and involve and invest in the young.

  • Improve education around the issue of energy use / behaviour and personal responsibility. Role of schools and colleagues etc.

  • Top down approaches won’t alone succeed. Needs a bottom up and top down approach with improved incentives (understanding of the benefits through effective and engaging communication) so communities and policy makers can work together effectively and reap the benefits.

  • Fiscal incentives to be more effectively targeted at those most in need.

  • Introduce flexibility in rental charges for retrofitted homes that are proven to be cheaper to run.

  • More community ownership / empowerment approaches needed. Tackle the problem at community level. More champions needed.

  • Find out what works for people in a local area – motivational change factors.

  • Less reliance on fossil fuels – we remain slaves to fossil fuel and this must change.

  • Take awareness through to action.

  • Expand knowledge exchange between cities of successful good / best practice.

Reports from Copenhagen workshops: 1)What can cities do to improve energy efficiency in historic buildings? By Kleopatra Theologidou


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2012-12-03 15.58.43

Facilitator: Kleopatra Theologidou, 
Architect, MA Conservation Studies
City of Veria, Greece

The workshop started with a short introduction about the importance of protecting and enhancing the historic centres of the cities, where historic and traditional buildings hold a central role to their image and identity. It was pointed out the importance of keeping these buildings alive and to achieve this, the only way is to ensure their continuous and proper use, which means that they should respond to current needs, namely alterations. A major theme under discussion nowadays is energy efficiency. Till recently, however, heritage was out of this discussion at a European level as dealing with certificates and standards, because the improvement of the energy efficiency of historic buildings means alterations which seem to influence the integrity and the historic values of the buildings.

The introduction was further referred to the different thermal behaviour historic and traditional buildings have in comparison to modern constructions and the different values these buildings possess which poses the question how realistic it is to talk about standards and certificates, as it seems that there are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

Finally, the need for an integrated approach was stressed, an issue widely discussed during URBACT Conference, as the only way cities can tackle effectively the different economic, environmental, climate and social challenges they face. Energy efficiency of historic buildings meets all these challenges and therefore cities need to adopt integrated strategies so that they are effective to their policies and get funds in the new programming period 2014-2020[1].

The discussion of the Heritage table[2] was focused mainly on the following questions:

1. Heritage versus energy efficiency: still a conflict?

  • What initiatives can cities take to succeed a common base of acceptable actions and methodologies among different authorities?
  • Is there a case that energy standards for historic buildings could be adopted at a European, National or Local level?

2. What short of support (financial, technical and administrative) can cities offer to the owners and tenants in order to respond to the additional demands deriving from the specific character of historic buildings?

The different backgrounds of the participants during the 2 days workshop and their strong interest and participation gave the opportunity for an interdisciplinary approach where very interesting opinions and knowledge were put on the table. The limited time for discussion, however, did not permit to deepen on specific matters. In brief, discussion, opinions and questions were as follows:

General matters
What is the difference between historic and traditional buildings?

  • Historic buildings are buildings which are protected (listed). Any intervention on them should follow strict preservation rules. At the moment these buildings are excluded from the energy efficiency certificates
  • Traditional buildings are old buildings, built in traditional methods and materials, which are not protected but they are in a protected area. In these buildings the possibilities for alterations are increased.
  • When we are referred to historic buildings and energy efficiency, we do not mean monuments of high importance.

It is very encouraging that in many cities, like in Delft, there is a tendency among residents to come back to the historic centre. This makes the need to take action more urgent, so that different problems are solved.

We cannot talk only for energy and historic buildings, but we should approach it in a broader context where social problems have a major role.

How can we face the challenge between conservation of the “integrity of historic buildings” versus improved energy efficiency standards?


Buildings versus building: Connection for improving novel efficiency methodologies

Historic and traditional buildings have a different thermal behaviour in comparison to modern constructions, due to their building technology, their form and architecture. Even among them there are a great many differences depending on the time period and place of construction. Additionally, values differ from building to building resulting to the different degree of alterations to be permitted. As a result, there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions; is it realistic to talk about standards and certificates?

Knowledge about the energy performance of traditional buildings has not yet been fully established. Especially in the case of composite building elements, like stone walls, further research is needed. In general, the methods applied to improve the energy performance of these buildings are borrowed from the methods applied to modern constructions, where different building materials are used. In addition, restrictions derived from the historic character of the buildings, like the retention of the facades, guide to the application of insulation methods which could not be characterised ideal. For example, the use of insulation on the internal part of the wall raises several questions. On the other hand, are we sure that we need additional insulation, especially in the case of mass walls?

However, it seems that there are methods to improve the energy performance of different building elements, such as windows, roofs and floors, which could have a general approval.

In general, at a European level, the idea of collecting cases of cost effective solutions on historic buildings was stressed, as well as the idea of analysing buildings of similar periods and architecture across Europe to find similar barriers and solutions. At a local level, the need for additional knowledge appeared in many cases to be necessary, as well as the need to connect energy demands to type of uses.

Is there a case that energy standards for historic buildings could be adopted at a European, National or Local level?

The European Standardisation Committee (CEN) has just set up a new Workgroup CEN TC 346/WG8 “Energy efficiency of historic buildings” with the aim to develop harmonised European standards to deal with the unsolved problem of energy upgrade in historic buildings.

Historic buildings and renewables
The use of renewables on historic buildings is very sensitive matter. Different opinions were expressed and different information was brought on the table. In most cases, the use of renewables and especially photovoltaic on historic buildings, like in UK or in Belgium is strictly forbidden for obvious reasons. However, in other areas, like in Denmark, it is permitted. In this case, they should be hidden, that means be located in areas that will not affect the landscape. In Delft also, a partner city in LINKs project, the use of photovoltaic on the roof of historic buildings is permitted on condition that they are not visible and the intervention is reversible[3].

In general, there has been a big concern among the participants of the roundtable whether to use or not photovoltaic on historic buildings, while the same possibility for traditional buildings seemed to be more acceptable, under the condition that it is not disturbing the image of the historic centre.

Other ideas were also expressed like in the case of Tailin, where sea water was used for heating the Estonian Maritime museum, built in 1914[4].

A practice applied in Spain is biomechanical energy, meaning the use of piezoelectric floor in buildings where human traffic is of a high level[5].

Other ideas like common heating system among a group of historic and traditional buildings could also be a solution. In this case, renewables, such as photovoltaic or geothermy could be used at a distance from the buildings.

What short of support (financial, technical and administrative) can cities offer to the owners and tenants?

Raise Awareness
Raising awareness is a major theme. In order to succeed, it is necessary to keep telling the story again and again. It can be:

By implementing pilot projects to help people see the benefits from retrofitting historic buildings. Knowledge on how much you save by energy improvement is crucial.

Encourage community leaders to implement policies which will help raising awareness about the importance of energy saving and business opportunities

Organize different activities, like in the case of Bayonne city, coordinator of LINKs network (Old European cities as a key for sustainability), which organises “the night of Thermography” open to the citizens, which help them see with the help of thermo cameras, the thermal emissions of traditional buildings.[6]

Dissemination of knowledge
The need for spread knowledge is crucial. People interested in restoring their buildings need to know what is permitted to do and what should be avoided.

In many cases knowledge is there but it is not diffused. A lot of work on heritage and energy performance has been done in many countries, like in UK (English Heritage, Edinburgh World Heritage trust), Ireland, Nederlands and France. Cities can help by organising seminars workshops, exhibitions, meetings etc. The city of Bayonne has organised the “boutique de restauration”, a permanent place with a small exhibition of materials and techniques, where different workshops are taking place addressed to different groups of stakeholders.

Cities can also organise training sessions.

The project ENERGY VILLAGES in Denmark focuses among others on knowledge sharing and best practice. One of them, Herringløse, is focused on heritage buildings.

At a national level, a platform with guidelines and technical aspects can be developed to help owners, technicians and different stakeholders. In Denmark a site has been organised with information on how to restore historic buildings.[7]

Administrative and financial support
Cities can provide assistance by promoting an office advisor who could help tenants with approval procedures, agreements, funding possibilities and knowledge.

Cities can also financially support privates in order to fill the gap of additional expenditures derived from the restrictions for the preservation of the historic character of the buildings.

Help in different ways examining the possibility to use cheaper materials, so that the cost for retrofitting is reduced.

Examine and stress the possibility of investing on historic buildings and under which circumstances.

Social aspects
The social factor was stressed by the coordinator of CASH network (Cities Action for Sustainable Housing), with emphasis to low income families and measures were proposed for renovating historic buildings without rent increase, like involving stakeholders and tenants from the beginning, creating a financial platform and providing training and qualified workforce[8].

[1] European Commission, Cohesion Policy, Integrated Sustainable Urban Development

[2] Reporter of the first day workshop was Mrs. Sara Van Rompaey, architect, expert in heritage and energy efficiency, to whom I am mostly grateful for her involvement and support.

[3] Birgit Dulski, Cees van der Vliet, Wim van Unen, “How progressive can cultural heritage management be”

[4] EU pilot project Tallinn: Restoration of seaplane harbour – Estonian Maritime museum: produce energy with a heath pump using sea water. The large harbour hangar is heated energy-efficiently by an underfloor heating system on a 6,300 m2 of area. The heat supply utilises a source next to the harbour: the sea, Katrin Savomagi,

[5] Rodrigo Sanz Martin, National project STEPS Valladoid,

Aniko Dobi-Rozsa about financing retrofit projects in the housing sector


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Aniko Dobi-Rozsa has shown a sophisticated guaranteed funding model, already tested in Hungary and the UK, designed by GESB (Global Environmental Social Business) to encourage housing stock retrofitting using risk mitigation.

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retrofit revolving loan guarantee fund to promote retrofitting

guarantee fund model works in many different sectors

this model has the key to make people interested: low risk, affordable price, non mortgage based finance

AMP: this model is exportable in other countries as Italy?

ADR: GESB is working with three regions in the UK to replicate the model

J. Owen Lewis about the Irish programmes on building energy efficiency


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J. Owen Lewis was the Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland until recently and is the best placed to relate the way in Ireland are used to transpose and implement EPBDirective with the aim of achieving the EU 2020 targets.

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in Ireland they have to think in terms of decades: 2020 target is -20% energy consumption

only 2,3% of emissions come from agriculture

dwellings need more attention in this system – focus on dwellings

public agencies set standards for public buildings

action plan for EPBDirective implementation

new buildings control regulations to be signed

code of practice to be published

introduce low energy standard

quality! Not only efficiency

registered assessors

infrastructures compliance

campaigns for homeowners (pre 2006 and pre 2002)

1 million buildings to upgrade

realistic action plan from EPBD

compliance mechanism for Assessors and building owners

build a dynamic power grid (a software easily changing fuel mix)

exclusion of historic buildings?

S.Van Rompaey: in Belgium protected historic buildings are excluded from Energy regulation but other historic buildings are excluded only for the facades

difference between energy certificated and real consumption

Adrian Joyce from EuroACE about Renovate Europe Campaign: strategy and targets


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EuroACE (The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficency in Buildings) is the main promoter of the Renovate Europe Campaign. Adrian Joyce presented the features and purposes of the campaign.

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promote EE on the EU political Agenda

reduce Energy demand in existing building stock by 80% by 2050

achieving the campaign objective means DEEP RENOVATION

CONSTRUCTION SECTOR: resistant to change

policies – technology – training and skills

engage with industry for innovation

if we don’t get the 3% of renovation rate by 2020 it’ll be impossible to get objective by 2050

complete report on site renovate-europe:

AMP: it’s complicated to start the wheel if any single family has to pay 10.000 € in one shot

ED’A – it’s impossible reach 80% reduction of Energy demand without new buildings

Stefanie Ubrig about INTERACT Mediterranean Lab group


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Capitalisation is a key word in INTERACT programme that intends to be a thematic pole on energy efficiency in buildings. Stefanie Ubrig introduced activities in INTERACT POINT in Valencia to support cooperation programs in Southern Europe.

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take advantage from local and traditional practices

natural risks (forest fire risks – maritime risks – transport)

key lessons – Thematic benchmark

analysis of 18 projects in 10 EU programmes

for the future: create a network between programs, increase involvement of private sector and increase project life

specific Mediterranean context: low insulation, low refurbishment rates compared to Central/ Northern Europe; in mediterranean countries heating spaces is the main energy consumption cause


ELIH-MED project: 500 PILOT HOUSES in 7 countries

involved not only users but even suppliers

regulatory framework for EE

common capitalisation strategy, partners’ platform and common policy paper (political level)

how to work with public administration?

AMPozzo is involved in one pilot project and said “participation starts from an interview to the inhabitants”

Emilio D’Alessio: the framework of mediterranean Countries is being monitored because it is about to expand (Montenegro, Albania, …)

SU: is possible to work with all these programs if you have a “mandate” ; it’s not only a technical question but most of all a political matter

ED’A even african part of mediterranean basin is involved in some project

A Joyce: is there a link with new EE Directive? Because is a trouble if any Country make a different interpretation

event MARIE 22 NOVEMBER: presentation of the draft policy paper and discussion with different stakeholders (different DGs, national, regional and local representatives). Presentations and policy paper available in