The Adriatic as gate of Europe evolution of a cultural, political, economic strategy Gabriele Zanetto-Geographer Università di Ca’ Foscari di Venezia As we are living in a time in which there is a mainly continental territory organization, for what concerns mainland, seas are depicted essentially as empty spaces surrounding mainland. The industrial civilization, changing the earth ecosystems into humanized systems (that have been reset functionally and permanently according to its needs), has not detected much to do and study for what concerns marine ecosystems, progressively conceived as an empty space to be crossed as soon as possible, or in a worst hypothesis, as a space to be used for disposal of waste material. After the years of the Sea Empires, built on an amount of roots between points or little coastal regions, the Continental Empires came, that were located in front of the sea and the sea was an empty space. After centuries of territory organization based on coasts and their maritime connections, also the Adriatic sea became mainly a borderline between continental masses, and so we still think about it as we are influenced by the cartographic representations that depict it as the Western edge of the Balkan peninsula or Eastern edge of the Italian peninsula. As surprising it may seem, it is peculiar that the Adriatic could be perceived in its reality of extreme and deep presence within the Mediterranean, in the European Continental mass; this position made it, mainly in a pre-industrial time, a strategic connection way between Central Europe (with a temperate-humid climate) and the coastal Eastern Mediterranean countries that were similar to it for climatic and economic reasons. The creation of countries, whose sizes were determined by the logic of self-sufficient market, strongly devoted to a territory unity that was able to make easier their territory organization and pushed to the identification of state and ethnic group, (national autarchic states) has changed the sea into an economic and cultural borderline, simplifying its perception to such an extent that it is represented in maps in a neatly undifferentiated way. Ancient links between coastal towns and regions became suspected mixtures of cultural and economic interests that are to be considered as part of new continental polarities; this lead to the poor quality of territory, cultural and economic of the coast zone. Anyway, the Adriatic has been crossed since a very long time by remarkable economic cultural frontiers on a continental scale, as a result of European and Mediterranean history. Even if each simplification risks to seem awkward and unfair towards the precious complexity of our historical background, some archetypes of Euromediterranean civility can be detected and found out in the Adriatic: the Mediterranean settlement system, linked to the classic type of free mercantile town located on a coastal height that could be defended and to the mercantile and manufacturing activities, dominating over the more or less close agriculture spaces that were able to provide it with food, open to a lots of cultural influences, tolerating and melting pot of cultures and technologies. We deal with a model born in the Archipelago and from Aegean it was transmitted to the Eastern Ionian and Adriatic coasts and to the terminal of Venice, an authentic imitation and apotheosis of those forms in a morphological completely different context, as a stone city built in the mud of a lagoon to imitate the string of cities scattered from there towards Bysanthium and Syria. the settlement system of the Balkan area, according to a specific culture and economy, sees the meeting in a wide and fading band between the region marked by the Ottoman civility and that region which adopted German colonization schemes in its expansion towards the East. But it was characterized by the colonization born in the years of the great population movements, that caused the birth or the meeting of Balkan ethnic groups (Yugoslavian, Latin, Illyrian and Greek) within a very strong cultural exchange. It is a cultural area that has been complementary to the first area for a long time, as it does not have many contacts with sea activities and it has many territory main points that were alternative to the mercantile town, where fortresses and monasteries are cornerstones of a rural settlement organized in united villages (in which identity is determined more by birth than location) that are prisoners of a very articulated ethnic mixture. One of the most definite borderline between the several Euromediterranean civilizations is crossing these two areas: the borderline between Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians connected with Islam, between the urban civilization par excellence and the fortress civilization. A painting dated 1800, in the museum of Curzola, represents in a marvelous way “The arrival of Croatians to the sea”, showing a group of Medieval knights that from the neat mountain heights of the Croatian coast admire the brightness of the Adriatic sea: And no place such as Trieste can show in a better way the connection between Mediterranean, German and Balkan archetypes. Within feudal civilization in its Padan and Central Italian shape, cities (that were manufacturing more than mercantile cities) were the strong masters of countryside and were proudly independent but ready to support regional unity. Feudal civilization in its Padan and Central Italian shape was neatly different from Mediterranean civilization to such an extent that relationships between Venice and Veneto cities are still nowadays difficult, even if they were dominated by Venice for three or four centuries. Southern Italy, structured on an economic line based on latifundium and the servile economy of late ancient times, saw its Greek Mediterranean one hundred cities decaying in the time of struggles (and the consequent destruction) between the Empires that were on the two seashores of the Mediterranean sea and impoverishing because of a late imposition of a feudal model that was stranger to its traditions and also unsuitable for its resources. These are not four areas but are co-existing forms of territory and identity organization, beyond the empire borderlines that slowly were set between the Habsburg, the blithe door, the Popedom, Venice or Spain. We only have to think about Habsburg sailors that spoke Venetian or about the mixture of Croatian culture with the urban forms of Dalmatia and about the co-existence of Catholics, Ortodoxes and Muslims that implies a linguistic unity, Slavic or Albanian. It is only the re-designing of the contexts of spatial relationship organization, caused by the national autarchic state, that make the sea a simple borderline and reduce it to a place of struggling, revendications and closeness. There is a worsening with the melting of Italy, Yugoslavia and Albany in wider horizons of continental structuring: the Adriatic, during the Cold War, became a piece of “iron curtain” dropped on Europe. All the other differences -ethnic, linguistic, economic, traditional- fade in front of the ideological or military difference. During many decades the Adriatic became a borderline between not communicating worlds. The revenge of Geography over the block policy, that put again into motion the proximity as an opportunity for cooperation, is affected by a delay caused by difficulties in stating common goals. Since some years the curtain has been raised, allowing the re-connection among regions and coastal cities, creating a situation that is not at all to be taken for granted concerning results and a situation that is not very easy to manage. It seems that the language of maritime connection had been forgotten and territory forms (economic, social and cultural) had lost their meaning, adapted to a new function quality that is state-centric. Some dangers are evident for all of us: the re-opening of economic and relationship possibilities leads generally to confuse cooperation on a regional scale (that are the only one to take advantage of market globalization and are, thus, functional to development) and they can be taken for a reduced scale version of national autarchic states, with their claiming for ethnic uniformity and inner unity (see Padania and Kosovo). In the Adriatic area the global quality principle, that from firms expanded to territory structures (public services, infrastructures, environmental conditions, safety), cannot be managed separately by coastal regions, that share out a sole interacting context. A strategy for Adriatic implies some goals to figure out and to monitor accurately: above all, a testing of the opportunities offered to development of different regions by the new possible cooperation scene. Since a long time, the common social economic model, enforced by the EEC action, make active relationships between Greece and Italy, opening also prominent opportunities for integration between wider Western European economic spaces (through Italy) and the Middle East (especially Turkey through Greece). In view of the Yugoslavia tragedy, that interrupted the land root between these two geoeconomic spaces, the Adriatic has immediately played the role of reciprocal connection and specialization opportunity, becoming trait de union for trades (that connect the manufacturing centers scattered from Germany to Turkey) and tourism flows. For the first time, since many years, there was the feeling that the ancient geographic vocation were back again in Trieste and in Venice, in view of the re-opening of new ferry boat lines, of the creation of mixed societies, recovering the importance of port activities. But the Adriatic is far from the complete exploiting the cooperation opportunities offered by the possible extension of motorways towards the ferryboat lines between the Veneto and Romagna and Dalmatia seashores, between the Italian peninsular and the Southern Dalmatia coast, between Puglia and Albany, between Istria and Central Italy. In a global economic system (in which the productive centers are located, within the same group, in a relative autonomy way and are looking for the best work conditions considering the strong differentials of cost of labor and soil in the coastal regions),once they cut down costs of transport, the Adriatic integration has a wide field of action. The Adriatic tourism market, even destined to remain differentiate for natural offer typology (high beaches and costs), and also for the fact of its car or bus accessibility because of distance (North and South above all), is still segmented into parts that are perceived by users as completely alternative, unable to bring development into emerging regions. For both these two goals will be necessary (need we to say this?) to get a condition of stability, safety and relative regulation uniformity in the less advantaged regions, that are to be endowed with a strong development helping policy. But, after this first phase, we will have to re-create a common language, that make variety comprehensible and inner communication easy. Firm, regions (centrality and urban services), safety environment policies will be the key words for cooperation policy that has to be safe from silly temptations of uniformity. The development goals have to be re-invented, as our time is often defined “postmodern”, within each culture such as functions of states, far from being uniform oppressive towards local communities and firms, have to be valued in terms of efficiency in a global quality project. Safety, market openness with sure regulations, recognition of local communities and firm as development active subjects, efficiency of administrative boards, cooperation between scientific technologic cultural communication circuits, development of communication infrastructures, promotion of local cultures: these are the key words for reconstructing the Adriatic territory, beyond dangerous false brotherhoods, taking care, in a solidarity framework, of the economic development potentialities and of the capacity of competing, that is prized, in the postmodern era, with the reliability of local communities, ethnic or not ethnic.