SMOOTH PORTS Virtual Partner Meeting

On 2 July the partners from Bulgaria, France, Italy and Germany came together in the form of a virtual get together to discuss the progress of the project.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of things have come to a halt or have slowed down project related tasks. This is mostly due to the shift in priorities that administrations face, in order to attend the pandemic related affects. The virtual meeting was put in place to ensure that activities stay on target, even if faced with challenges due to travel- and other restrictions in place.

Each partner provided an overview of the status quo of the study / assessment that serve as the basis for the later planned Action Plans. Generally speaking, all partners were able to continue with their work. Not all tasks could be completed or brought forward due to the lock down in some areas, but preparatory work or other tasks related were done in the background. Overall, it is anticipated that the project partners are able to keep more less within the timeline.

One aspect that is challenging of course due to the pandemic is the engagement of stakeholders. The partners used the meeting to exchange ideas on how to best involve stakeholders and stay on their agenda to receive feedback and communicate on the project as a whole. Here, the virtual format seems to be the most promising approach. However, it does have its drawbacks. The virtual meeting was a welcome opportunity to try out and discuss agenda, length and other aspects of such meetings.

The partners also agreed on the fact that at this stage we should arrange for another virtual meeting after the summer break. This way the progress can be better monitored by everyone and issues can be discussed.

It was further noted that a physical and extended Partner Meeting should be planned in Varna for now. It is the 'mid-term' Partner Meeting and as such will be planned with a longer meeting to have more time to focus on the various project related aspects. The planning of the meeting of course should consider national COVID-19 hygiene measures in place. Depending on travel restrictions and the then prevalent Corona situation, it is possible that the meeting would need to be carried out as a mixed, digital and physical, or entirely digital event. However, the focus lies on the physical variant for now.

Lastly, it should be noted that SMOOTH PORTS has been able to secure an exhibition stand participation at the European Week of Regions and Cities in October. It will be shared with another project and the stand on 30 years of Interreg - European Territorial Cooperation. More details on that to follow.