I live on the southern borders of Europe, in Sicily. An island that, in other times, was at the center of flourishing traffic between Africa, Europe and Middle East.

The sea unites and divides, depending on the way you look at it. Dangers come from the sea, but there are also fabulous opportunities. The interwoven history of Sicily and Tunisia is all here. The two lands are separated by an arm of the sea, less than 150 km. From the Phoenicians, to the Greeks, to the Romans, to the Arabs, different populations have travelled these shores for many centuries, colonizing them but at the same time nurturing their cultures. This flow of exchanges, changing over time, is today at historic lows, with peaks of despair, because of the events related to trafficking in human beings and irregular migratory flows. Within this critical historical moment, I believe cross-border cooperation holds high the banner of a virtuous, optimistic exchange, a harbinger of wealth and opportunity.

CBC returns to the centrality of Sicily, anticipating trends that, in my believe, will be sooner or later mainstreaming in the future equilibrium of Europe. The identity of Europe, in my view, is more evident near its boundaries. Identity is, at the end of the day, a matter of mirroring “us” with the “others”, and at the same time a mutual, electrifying recognition of parenthood and familiarity. At the borders, moreover, discontinuities and challenges disclose opportunities and potentials not yet fully expressed. The right place to be!

I started working for CBC at the end of 2014.  I had the privilege to close the 2007-2014 Italy-Tunisia ENPI CBC programme and, at the same time, launch the 2014-2020 period. A unique experience in my professional life. I am now the head of the Joint Technical Secretariat for the new programme, supporting the Managing Authority within the Sicilian Region premises, in Palermo.

I spent most of my professional life travelling and consulting, in the sector of international cooperation and humanitarian aid. CBC is something profoundly different, because it shifts the axis from a strictly vertical intervention – the donor at the top and, below, the beneficiaries – to an exercise that strives to maintain a horizontal equilibrium, in which neighbouring countries become partners shortening distances, even geographical, between the donors and the performers of the interventions.

 Our programme focuses on SME development, research and innovation, and on environmental related issues. Our ultimate result has been the creation of a vibrant community of cross border practitioners, addressing a wide range of social/environmental challenges. We go from biotechnologies related to creation of circular economy in aquaculture and fishery, to the sound management of alternative energy and natural resources, to the creation of new forms of responsible, sustainable tourism, not forgetting the empowerment of cross border green business opportunities.

Rosario Sapienza was born in Catania, Sicily. He has a background as anthropologist. After his university degree, in Rome, he started as associated researcher for a private research center, addressing « hot topics » such as immigration, juvenile criminality, trafficking of human being. In 2000, he moved to international consultancy and technical assistance and spent six years performing result oriented monitoring (ROM) for the EC, mostly in the ACP Region. After a few years in Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Indonesia for the Italian Cooperation, Rosario monitored, evaluated, designed and managed projects and programmes in more than 25 countries, working for other agencies such as IFAD, UNDP, UNICEF, USAID. In 2009, Rosario came back home, in Sicily, where he settled his family and is raising his three boys.

Programme: ENI CBC Italy-Tunisia

website: www.italietunisie.eu