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					                       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

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.

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