A Holistic Approach to Foster Sustainable Urban Mobility: Insights from the European Commission @CirClE and SMile Conference 2019

On the 28th and 29th of March 2019, in Nicosia, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Work of Cyprus organized the International Conference CirClE2019 "Challenges for the Islands in the era of the Circular Economy" and SMile 2019 “6th Sustainable Mobility and Intelligent Transport Conference” with the support of the MED Urban Transports Community. On this occasion, the two European Commission Directorates General auspicing the event - DG ENV and DG MOVE - called for a more integrated and holistic approach to tackle sustainable urban mobility challenges in the Mediterranean.

(Rome, 8 May 2019) “We are all colleagues in this quest for more sustainability in the islands, and transports are part of a holistic approach to islands” said Mr Morsi, Advisor to the Director DG MOVE, in his intervention at the international conference CirClE2019 and SMile 2019 in Cyprus.

Mr Helmut Morsi and Mr Daniel Calleja Crespo, respectively representatives of DG MOVE and DG ENV, stressed the need to develop a holistic approach, to cooperate with neighbouring cities for transferring the knowledge gained and to allow islands to take action. A message in complete accordance with the aim of the event to promote and support insularity, boosting circular economy in the islands and cross-border cooperation.

Their contributions took place during the CirCIE SMile conference, which aimed at enhancing bilateral and multilateral relations and sharing good practices. Other topics were on the agenda such as the strengthening of economic and business opportunities and the promotion of green and blue growth, sustainable mobility and intelligent transport systems as well as an overall sustainable development. This point in particular was also highlighted by Mr Calleja Crespo, Director General for Environment, who shared his insights through a video message, and pointed out 4 priority areas in this regard: sustainable tourism, water and waste management, and mobility.

Islands face problems requiring tailor-made solutions, which have to take into account their insularity condition. Water and waste issues, seasonality-related problems exert a strong pressure on the economic model, imposing the need to attract capital and investors for the whole year. As Mr Calleja Crespo pointed out “local resources are scarce, the capacity for waste management is more difficult, and access to external resources is more difficult because islands do not benefit from the economy of scale of large mainland market”.

The European Commission has always supported islands mobility development by funding infrastructure in ports, and supporting the transition of ferries towards alternative fuels for example - emphasized Mr Morsi. The 40% budget increase that was allotted for modernizing transports is also the illustration of such support. A more systematic cooperation between the DGs would enhance the benefits of such measures, he also highlighted, by developing synergies between transport, energy and IT, namely DG MOVE, DG CONNECT and DG ENV.

During a side interview with UNIMED, the representative of DG MOVE also mentioned some potential and cost effective solutions such as TENtec, the European Commission’s Information System to coordinate and support the Trans-European Transport Network Policy (TEN-T), as well as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a key EU funding instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at European level. For example, bringing units to the islands, with windmill and integrated chargers for electric vehicles in a single box, would promote the use of alternative energy sources. Rail hydrogene for electric trains, biogas used in trucks and boats, solar panels as well as on shore electricity and cold-ironing providing boats with energy cables, are examples of measures that have already been put in place.

The MED Urban Transports Community, whose modular projects and partners participated in the event, could fruitfully reflect on the importance of keep working for targeted and tailored-made solutions to be combined with a holistic approach. Solutions that are adequate for islands to foster sustainable urban mobility can be replicated in scale in coastal areas of the countries involved in the Interreg MED featured thematic communities, thanks to the transnational dimension that it fosters.

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The MED Urban Transports Community is one of the thematic communities of the EU Interreg MED Programme. The Community currently gathers seven projects working towards achieving tailor-made sustainable urban mobility plans and solutions in the Mediterranean area. The MED Urban Transports Community is supported and animated by the GO SUMP project.

The GO SUMP partnership is composed of Malaga Council, RDA Green Karst, EUROCITIES, BIC Euronova, MEDCITIES, CODATU and UNIMED – Mediterranean Universities Union, which aims at improving the visibility and the communication reach of the projects of the community, to create synergies among them and to capitalise and mainstream their results. Using a bottom-up and a top-down approach among the Community projects and relevant policy-makers and interest groups, GO SUMP acts as a bridge enhancing dialogue, promoting the transfer of knowledge and amplifying the impact of the projects of the community.

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