On 21st September the project ”Sustainable heritage management of WAterway REgions” (SWARE) hosted its Launching Conference in The Hague (The Netherlands). About 70 participants attended the Conference to learn about the ideas and the main aspects of the project.

Speakers of the Launching Conference made reference to such important aspects of the project as the governance, public participation and balance between heritage protection and sustainable development. The different approaches of partner institutions towards these issues will help to improve the balance between heritage protection and sustainable development and public participation in regions involved in the project.

As for the governance, speakers of the respective Conference Block emphasized the importance of increased involvement of stakeholders in the process. Wide involvement and increased adaptability of institutions help to improve the governance, and makes it more accountable, legitimate and efficient. In the Content Block of the Conference speakers from both private and public sectors shared good examples of sustainable development in inland waterway regions. Examples from the Netherlands (public transport in inland waterways – Aqualiner and Waterbus) and Slovakia-Hungary border area (bike routes and other infrastructure improvement) showed, that it is possible to get nearer to the balance between natural and cultural heritage protection and development of the respective areas.

The Participation Block focused on the public participation issue. Speakers presented examples of different participation mechanisms, which showed the various possibilities of involvement. The main issues of public involvement are time/energy consumption, possible conflict management and seeking feedback, yet the outcomes are definitely worth the contributed work. After each session of the Conference there was a Q&A session. The participants of the Conference asked various questions, regarding both practical and theoretical issues of the SWARE project and linking together experiences of different stakeholders from public and private sector.

The Conference was visited by The Ambassador of Latvia to the Netherlands Mrs. Ilze Rūse, who said that the project is a good opportunity for all involved institutions to learn from each other and improve the governance of inland waterways. “I am thankful for the invitation to the SWARE Launching Conference! It was gratifying to witness the start of an important interregional project. The Embassy supports this cooperation and experience exchange between different regions and institutions across Europe, which gives opportunities to share experience in solving similar issues,” said Mrs. Rūse.

“The regions and institutions involved in the SWARE project are very different, therefore it is satisfying that all these partners can find common ground and explore the good practices. The governance and development of inland waterways is different across involved regions, therefore this project is expected to be useful experience for each partner and their stakeholders,” concluded Mrs. Rūse.

SWARE is a cooperation project with six project partners: Association Regio Water (Lead Partner, The Netherlands), Tipperary County Council (Ireland), Metropolitan City of Milan (Italy), Pons Danubii European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (Slovakia), Vidzeme Planning Region (Latvia) and Province of Zuid-Holland (The Netherlands).

The overall objective of SWARE project is to foster integrated management of natural and cultural heritage within inland waterway regions by improving the partner regions’ related policy instruments in order to create a better balance between the protection and sustainable exploitation of the natural resources and the built heritage sites. Project SWARE is implemented with the support of European Regional Development Fund and Interreg Europe Programme 2014-2020.