The attempt to establish a broader common vision, a European reality in the Balkans, as clearly defined by the mayor of Athens, Costas Bakoyannis, in his closing speech at the B40 Network Summit, is marked by the assumption of the presidency by Athens.

During the two-day conference of Mayors held in Technopolis on Monday and Tuesday, January 23 and 24, more than 70 mayors and local governments from large and smaller cities of the Balkans agreed that cooperation, inclusivity and joint action in the search for solutions to common problems at local level is the only way to ensure peace and prosperity of the peoples of the Balkans. 

“Over the past 48 hours, all together, we have strengthened the foundations of our broader vision. Inter-Balkan cooperation, mutual trust and common regional development. And we all put together a little bit. For a better, structured, collective tomorrow, a tomorrow for everyone,” Bakoyannis noted, adding: “Taking the baton of the presidency, Athens aims to seek even more positive results. Our main concern is the active cooperation of members around key areas for Sustainable Development and strengthening the resilience of our cities. With a proactive horizon, with participation but mainly with inclusivity. With actions accessible to all and with open inclusive procedures. Because we envision a European reality in the Balkans. Let us be a good example in the region.”

The Six Pillars of the presidency

1) tackling the climate crisis

2) smart cities and accelerating digital transformation

3) the strengthening of fair and inclusive, but also tolerant societies

4) Economic Cooperation and development

5) strengthening our local democracy

6) the tightening of cultural ties

The mayor of Athens referred to the ongoing process of accession of Balkan countries to the European Union, emphasizing that since 2003 and the E Summit. In Thessaloniki, there is still a historical issue.

“To agree that we cannot and cannot afford to wait any longer. And that the municipalities must take it upon themselves, to take the necessary initiatives, to send the necessary political messages. All together because the cohesion, development and resilience of the Balkans depends directly on our own action and our place in our common European home. It is a difficult battle, but we must fight it united, coordinated and stable. Europe fits us all and needs us all, ” said the mayor of Athens.

Closing the session, Mr. Bakoyannis recalled what the network is in essence and what is its driving force: “we are a network of cities, a network of people. If we find ways to enrich it with the inexhaustible energy and dynamism of our citizens, we will achieve multiple”.

Specializing in the aims of B40, Mr. Bakoyannis referred to the strengthening of just and inclusive societies and the strengthening of tolerance with an eye towards the vulnerable.

“As we share our Balkan land, we will share knowledge, technology, best practices, and solutions to improve the lives of our citizens. Managing economic uncertainty and inequality, addressing the climate crisis, strengthening the security of our cities, strengthening democratic institutions, protecting future generations, and developing. [ … ] Personally, I am committed in the coming months and during my Presidency to visit every member municipality, at least in every area to work together and co-organize nice events, to take joint initiatives. We live in the age of networks.”

Mr. Bakoyannis said goodbye to the participants, inviting them to always remember that “Athens is their second home”.

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