Originally posted in Atlantic Cities’ blog (March 2014)
Five years ago, while preparing the Action Plan 2009-2011 for CAAC, I was asked to design the lobbying campaign of the Atlantic Arc Cities for an Atlantic Macro-region. My first thoughts on the issue were published at CAAC Newsletter, as far as June 2009, were the Atlantic Strategy was somewhat less than a romatic idea.
Today, as the Atlantic Action Plan is on its way, I’d like to share again these first thoughts with you:
The Baltic Strategy: A mirror for the Atlantic?
On 10 June 2009, the European Commission presented a strategic proposal for the EU in the Baltic, which member states had requested in December 2007. The proposal is the result of consultations and debates in the eight member states concerned. The strategy will be one of the main priorities for the Swedish Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2009.
The Commission proposes a complete action plan for the Baltic, pointing out that better co-ordination from the entities involved is required. In the words of Commissioner Danuta Hubner, “the EU is well placed to coordinate the work that needs to be done in order to make the most of available resources to save the Baltic Sea, boost trade and improve the quality of life of everyone in the region”. The strategy is based on key matters like environmental sustainability, prosperity, safety, accessibility and attractiveness.
Given that many of the problems identified correspond to EU priorities, Structural Funds programmes in the region can be used as the basis for cooperation in the Baltic. Specific projects in the proposal are the interconnection of the Baltic energy market and the Baltic railways. This is the first time the EU has developed such a complete strategy in a «macro-region», and it should be able to inspire similar approaches in other areas, such as for example the Atlantic; as anticipated by CPMR Commission of Atlantic Arc in its latest General Assembly held in May 2009.
The Operative Programme states that “The Atlantic is characterised by unequal development and territorial ruptures”, and so a co-ordination method similar to that proposed for the Baltic could turn out to be fundamental when it comes to proposing actions to promote scale economies in the Atlantic area.
In the same way, a EU strategy for the Atlantic Space would exercise a beneficial influence on key matters for the area, such as the knowledge economy, maritime heritage, the threat of coastal planning,
accessibility and transport. In this regard, from the CAAC, we should point out that the Charter of San Sebastián not only defends a primordial role for cities in the development of the Atlantic,
but its goals can also serve as a reference point for such a strategy.
It is now up to Atlantic stakeholders to take the need for a similar plan to EU authorities. On the immediate horizon, the Spanish presidency of the EU in the first half of 2010.