The 3-day International Conference CIrClE2018 “Challenges for the Islands in the era of Circular Economy” took place between 20 and 22 of September 2018, in Chania, Crete, Greece, at the premises of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania.

Interreg-MED Green Growth Business forum, incorporated in the main conference was organized by the MED Green Growth Community. During the "Forum" several companies’ “best practices” were presented describing innovative ideas related to circular economy and eco-innovation. IFIs and financial instruments and programmes, such as EBRD, Innovation Norway, EASME and Interreg MED, have linked the Circular Economy objectives to the real market offering innovative financing and funding opportunities and schemes to various enterprises/SMEs and stakeholders. More than 40 B2B and B2G meetings were held. In the parallel session of the Interprogramme synergies a debate among representatives of Interreg MED Integrated, Horizontal and Modular Projects, reinforced synergies among European, national and regional strategies, in the forefront of circular economy. In the projects’ exhibition area, more than 20 different co-financed projects had the opportunity to present their ideas to the public. The field visit at the DEDISA Mechanical and Composting plant has demonstrated a good practice that was developed with EU co-financing to remedy a past bad practice; in parallel, the company ONFLOW demonstrated a new eco-innovative electrolysis technology.

CIrClE 2018 was organized under the auspices of the European Commission and the Region of Crete, aiming at promoting circular economy in the islands and coastal areas of the Mediterranean, sharing good practices and boosting capacity building by improving cross-border cooperation, enhancing bilateral & multilateral relations, strengthening economic & business opportunities as well as promoting green and blue growth and sustainable development. EU representatives from DG ENV, DG MARE, DG REGIO, DG MOVE, as well as important networks such as CPMR, Greening the Islands, INSULEUR and DAFNI were represented together with regional and local authorities. More than 280 participants from 21 different countries, including North Africa, were registered to the conference.

The following conclusions can be drawn from the presentations and interactive discussions, together with some key recommendations:

1) A European Commission Communication for Circular Economy (CE) and islands. Use the Outermost Regions Strategy as a model with regard to the insularity issues.

2) CE is a key priority of the EU that will be supported by EU Funds and programmes in the current and, in particular, in the next programming period. The transition to the CE needs to be supported through capacity building and awareness raising actions, as well as identification of best/good practices to be spread across the EU, in particular as regards the island states, islands regions and islands. Peer to peer and TAIEX can be useful tools.

3The development of a Macro regional strategy for the islands of the Mediterranean; the reinforcement of the islands dimension of the Adriatic, Ionian Macro regional strategy.

4) CE should be conceived lato sensu, i.e. covering not only waste and water, but also eco-innovation, green jobs, electro-mobility, RES and smart cities.

5)  Holistic CE plans for each island. The need to treat insular areas and regions as special areas with particular features/characteristics has emerged, requiring the development and implementation of specific circular economy plans at island level.

6) Build synergies among networks of islands. A need for synergies and cooperation between islands was arisen, requiring the implementation of strategic plans related to energy, waste management, water, transport, at a cross-islands scale.

7EGTC for CE & islands. Meeting to be conveyed at islands’ services level. Update the Declaration signed in Heraklion (2016). New contacts with islands’ representatives for a draft document regarding the establishment of the EGTC in Heraklion, Crete.

8) Join forces to increase islands’ visibility in the next MFF and its implementation. Positive advocating through the national governments, the CoR, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Parliament and MEPs to communicate the message that the islands must be covered, together with the Outermost Regions already covered. New Interreg to be enlarged to cover inter-island initiatives.

9) Promote insularity clause so that islands are covered in all EC impact assessments and specific provisions or derogations are foreseen, as appropriate. 

10) Next IGC with the view to a new Treaty, and dialogue for the future of Europe: ensure stronger wording on islands and hopefully a special regime for islands, mountain and remote areas.

11Capacity building & awareness raising on a permanent basis as technologies and

Know-how develop rapidly.

12) Sufficient EU funds & programmes to be earmarked for islands’ purposes. The resources of the available funding and financial instruments for the implementation of projects related to the circular economy are expected to increase in the coming years and we need to be prepared. Circular economy project pipelines! Use of newly created financing platforms (EIB, EBRD). It is necessary to improve the conditions of the exploitation of know-how and reliability of administrative and governance systems. Creation of bonds of trust between citizens, investors and the public sector.

13)  Use of new technologies. Move to a new generation machinery to boost and improve sorting of recyclables, supported by funding- financing instruments.

14Digital economy at the service of circular economy. Tailored Apps for the citizens.

15)  Empower the role of private sector. Enhance the establishment of PPPs and provide incentives to the private sector so as to develop circular economy initiatives and in particular use clean recyclables for the benefit of the EU economy.

16) Islands’ task force within EC DGs; stronger contacts with the EP Intergroup; CE Committees for Islands per country.

17Over tourism and its footprint. Implementation of food waste projects in the hotels and restaurants to produce high quality compost, biogas or food to feed.  

18) Circular Economy as a new business model, including several sectors. CE becomes an economic driver and creates green jobs.

19) With regards to Solid Waste Management, the following additional recommendations were drawn:  

  • At islands’ level and as regards their local/traditional products – to start with - re-design such products and their packaging, so as, on the one hand, to extend their life cycle, and on the other hand, to be easily repairable, reusable and recyclable before their final disposal as waste.
  • Focus on the prevention- minimization of waste generation by developing specific, mandatory programs, for all levels of education, through inter alia “pay as you throw” schemes.
  • Increase the recovery of materials by sorting at source and boost the recovery of organic matter, essential for the soil fertility of the southern European territories, and in particular the islands, which are under desertification threat.
  • Focus on waste to energy projects, using the residues prior to landfilling.
  • Manage properly the construction and demolition waste that can provide useful resources for the islands.

All the above conclusions and recommendations are indicative and express the general feeling of the conference and its participants.

George Kremlis
Honorary Director DG ENV, Chair of the Organizing Committee