Last March 1st and 2nd, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a hearing in Bilbao concerning the debate on the Atlantic Strategy, whose title was “From maritime policy to a macro-regional strategy for the Atlantic”. This meeting invited diverse stakeholders so as to discuss the opportunities opened for the Atlantic Arc.
In words of M. Luis Pariza, EESC rapporteur, the Atlantic Strategy must take into account the new context brought forward by EU2020 and the inclusion of territorial cohesion as a main objective in the Lisbon Treaty. He pinpointed the limits of the Maritime Policy so as to justify the necessity of a second pillar of the Atlantic Strategy, a territorial pillar that should take into account also economic and social dimensions of the whole Atlantic Arc.
M. Luis Cuervo, representing DG MARE, explained that the Communication of the Commission is based in the growth potential of the Atlantic Arc. The Strategy would change the nature of the funds, combining diverse sources of finances for projects that would have a more significant scope, leaving behind the ancient “mini” projects and exploiting the available knowledge. The identification of challenges when drafting the Partnership Agreements is of the outmost importance. The Forum that will be opened later in 2012 should serve to get contributions from stakeholders.
Ms. Flo Clucas reminded the importance of the citizens’ dimension in all initiatives attached to Cohesion Policy, the Atlantic Strategy among them. Ms. Ana Miranda, from the European Parliament, highlighted the necessity of questioning the signification of “periphery”, as it should be regarded as relative and strongly dependant on political will. In her words, the Atlantic Strategy should go further than the States, have a eco-systemic approach, a clear regional dimension (complementary to the discussion on Cohesion Policy) and integrate citizens in the discussion.
Ms. Inma Valencia, DG Economy and European Affairs of Cantabria, representing M. Laurent Beauvais, president of the Atlantic Arc Commission (AAC), pointed out the requirements of more visibility and a adapted political framework. All funds must converge, so the AAC is collecting ideas to be presented in the Forum. The Atlantic Strategy is a milestone in Atlantic Cooperation which has been evolving since the first Atlantis programme. The bottom-up approach is a compulsory condition for success and must be supported by previous prospective.