By Philippe Duron, former CAAC president
Today we share a special moment for our network, for ourselves, both as members of the CAAC and actors of the European Union … and it is special for me as the president of an association that represents the core values our territories.
This organization celebrates today, Atlantic day, her 13th birthday. We are not superstitious and we think that thirteen is rather a symbol of maturity and of commitment to the future. A future that our cities have been able to define together as competitive and as cooperative cities.
In the recent years, the Atlantic Arc cities have distinguished themselves in several fronts. As competitive cities, they have won several European and international awards, such as Digital City, Nations in Bloom, the European Green Capital, the Capital of Culture, the CIVITAS acknowledgements and other distinctions involving both the city itself like the urban policy of our different municipalities.
As cooperative cities, Atlantic Arc cities did not hesitate to strengthen the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities, providing it with a new structure, allowing CAAC to become the Atlantic Urban Forum. Similarly, our cities have undertaken the creation of new sectoral networks such as the Network of Spanish Smart Cities (RECI), the network of Surf cities or the Network of Innovative Maritime Territories.
This balance between competition and cooperation is an asset that the Atlantic Arc cities want to share with a continent which doubts itself, sending a clear message: the local level is essential for a European Union that is both competitive and cooperative.
The tools are within reach if we succeed, as a fundamental echelon of governance, to make ourselves heard. On the one hand, the transnational cooperation program for the Atlantic Area must recognize the fundamental role of the Atlantic cities. On the other hand, we contribute every day to this initiative, because we knew how to carry out exemplary projects as Know Cities, Anatole or Imagina Atlantica and we will continue to do so in the future.
In addition, the Atlantic Strategy and Action Plan are born from our ideas, our commitment, and, why not, our pursuit of happiness in a Europe that wants to work better in saving resources. This is the key to Atlantic Strategy: a way to organize initiatives in order to avoid fragmentation. As they are the level closest to the citizens, cities reveal themselves as a key factor for the success of this approach. However, we have to recall every day to European institutions the relevance of urban and territorial dimension of the Atlantic Strategy.
But we are not alone in this approach. We have forged links with other stakeholders of the Atlantic Arc, such as regions, economic and social councils and agricultural chambers. And we were able to go beyond, with the creation of the CECICN in 2010, alongside networks and cities facing similar challenges to ours, such as the Baltic, the Mediterranean and today the Danube.
Hand in hand with our European partners and invested by our urban and civic legitimacy, our cities must now take their place in a Europe that doubts and folds on itself. We cannot limit ourselves to hope and wait, we do not want to take over the role of strike-party or person to whom nothing satisfies. Atlantic cities, competitive and cooperative, must take the lead and give the European Union its enterprising spirit, for it abandons its pessimism. As someone very different to me, Mr. Churchill, once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.“
It remains to us to choose which side we want to be.