The network “Atlantic Cities”  was founded on July 7, 2000 by Mr Edmond Hervé (then Mayor of the city of Rennes). During the first General Assembly, the Rennes Declaration was signed, with the aim of creating a network of the communities placed by the façade of the Atlantic Ocean and cooperating between members. This international association is in direct dialogue with European institutions, as well as with other territorial cooperation organizations, such as the Atlantic Arc Commission.

The network was inicially named The Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities (CAAC)

Various political figures are linked to the platform, in particular the Mayors of the participant local authorities. We can also mention Bernard Cazeneuve, former French Prime Minister who joined with the city of Cherbourg or Jean-Marc Ayrault, former French Prime Minister, who was also part  as President of Nantes Métropole and founder with Edmond Hervé. Representatives such as Íñigo de la Serna, former Mayor of Santander and former Spanish Minister of Public Works, and António Costa, former Mayor of Lisboa and current Portuguese Prime Minister, have been members of the association. The network has also surrounded itself with numerous national and European Parliament Members who participate and intervene in the events.

  • The creation of network: Under the chairmanship of Mr Edmond Hervé from 2000 to 2003, former Mayor of Rennes, former minister and deputy, and current Senator of Ille et Vilaine

Given the gradual displacement of Europe towards the east of the continent, Edmond Hervé had the idea of forming this organization to emerge as “an actor of territorial development policies concerning the Atlantic Arc” and “to frame their actions in the new programs of the European Union”. The aim was also to develop policies regarding the accessibility of cities, social cohesion, sustainable urban development, etc., boosting at the same time an Atlantic urban model and a balanced organization of the European space.

In 2002, the network published a briefing about its development strategy. It envisaged a European orientation with several centres of decisions, that is, a will of polycentrism. Priorities for 2002 and 2003 were the reinforcement of the Atlantic network, its appreciation from external partners and the implementation of common projects.

During the 2002 General Assembly in Cardiff, the municipalities submitted several proposals to the European authorities so that the future reform of European regional policy would give more importance to the urban phenomenon. In July 2002, the Atlantic cities committed to executing an Atlantic Urban Project. In this context, the cities have developed an Atlantic Urban Information System.

The first Secretary General was Xavier Gizard, for a period of 9 years. He was also Secretary General of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR).

  • From 2003 to 2005, the first projects under the presidency of Mrs Paz Fernández Felgueroso, former Mayor of Gijón, former Counsellor for Industry, Trade and Tourism of the Principality of Asturias and former Secretary of State for communication

In 2004, the priority is given to the territorial dialogue. Contributing to the meeting with the European Commission, the Atlantic Cities showed its willingness to enforce territorial dialogue to work more closely with the Commission. On the one hand, the network requested that the modalities of this dialogue be improved in order to allow an effective exchange with the Commission. On the other hand, the association insisted on the importance of listening local entities’ opinions, expectations and demands. Furthermore, Atlantic cities supported the proposals submitted to the European Cohesion Forum in May 2004 to tackle the challenges of competitiveness and internal cohesion of the European Union. Besides, Mrs Felgueroso negotiated partnership agreements with other European networks. Three partnership agreements were signed with the Atlantic Arc Commission, the Western Atlantic Universities Network and the Union of Baltic Cities.

Regarding the projects, two were launched in 2003: The Revita project which allowed the innovative rehabilitation of obsolete industrial areas and also the Cultur*at project, which promoted the cultural identity of Atlantic Cities. In 2004, following the Atlantic Net project in the field of efficient and sustainable transport, a Forum will be created. It brings together small Atlantic companies working in the Information Society.

Fernández’s mandate was also marked by an initiative under the Prince program: Citizens Awareness Project on the Issues of European Construction.

  • Defence of the urban dimension: Mr Rodney Berman, former City Leader of the Cardiff Council, President from 2005 to 2007

Thanks to his work with the British Presidency of the European Union, Rodney Berman has allowed the crossing of a new stage in the promotion of the network and the recognition of the essential role of cities in Europe.

At the General Assembly in Cork in 2005, the cities adopted the proposals of the Vade-mecum about the Structural Funds on European Cohesion Policy of EU, as a model to promote the debate on regional operational programs in their territories. In December 2005, the Atlantic Cities in the person of Mr. Rodney Berman brought his expertise on the Bristol Agreement. The subject of the agreement is the union of Europe in building sustainable communities. The areas concerned are employment, the economy, social justice and generally improving the quality of life of Europeans.

Between 2005 and 2007, a political position paper issued by the members of the association demonstrated a real desire for cohesion to the European institutions. The aim was to defend a regional policy for the entire European territory. Between 2005 and 2008, under the leadership of Chester, the SPAA project focused on the promotion of the territory and the economic development of cities and regions of the Atlantic Arc.

  • A new strategy for sustainable development: Mr Xosé Sánchez Bugallo, President from 2007 to 2009, Mayor of Santiago de Compostela

In 2008, the network adopted the Charter of San Sebastián, which advocates the model of green economy as a prototype for the future of Atlantic cities, through the definition of a clean concept of sustainable urban development. Such Charter gives new orientations to the organisation and was signed by the Mayors and Presidents of the cities on the European Atlantic Arc, at Donostia-San Sebastián during the association‘s General Assembly.

The network participated in international discussions on climate change negotiations. In the context of the drafting of the Green Paper on territorial cohesion of the Committee of the Regions, the association made its particular contributions on public transports in 2007, on services of general interest in 2008 and on territorial cohesion in 2009. That year, Eleni Marianou became Secretary-General for a period of 2 years. On the initiative of Mrs Tamara Espiñeira, the network published in 2009 The Baltic Strategy: a mirror for the Atlantic Ocean, a document illustrating the will to be part of the development of the European regional cooperation between territories. Atlantic urban centres and actors claimed for the drawing of a particular integrated strategy for their geographical space, through a document submitted by Mr Sánchez Bugallo in Santiago de Compostela and entitled Elements for an urban vision of Atlantic cooperation.

In 2008, the Aapublicserv project, on the theme of sustainable construction of public services, was working until 2012, leaded by San Sebastián and Cardiff. UNIC was set up by Sevilla for a period of 3 years, with the objective of protecting the heritage of Cities, and defense of the jobs of companies and their know-how.

  • Carrying a voice to the European Union: Presidency of Mr Philippe Duron from 2009 to 2013, former Mayor of Caen and former deputy

Thanks to Mr. Philippe Duron, then Mayor of Caen, the Atlantic Arc Commission and the Atlantic Cities gathered in a common effort: an Atlantic macro-region. Presidencies of both organizations met them in September 2010 with the Spanish Presidency of the European Council, proposing a similar model to the Baltic territorial cooperation. In June 2010, regions and cities published “Orientations for an integrated strategy for the Atlantic Arc” for the purpose of preserving and promoting Atlantic territories and demonstrating the relevance of a macro-regional strategy for the Atlantic Arc. Then, on behalf of Atlantic cities, the network wrote a “Response to the European Commission’s Public Consultation on an Integrated Maritime Policy for the Atlantic Ocean Basin”.

Also in 2010, Atlantic Arc Cities established with its partners the European platform “Conference of European Cross-Border and Interregional City Networks” (CECICN), in Santiago de Compostela, with Mr Xosé Bugallo as first President. In February 2011, the Atlantic Association contributed to the European Commission’s Communication on the Atlantic Strategy, whose contents and themes reflected the initiatives which the network had recommended for more than ten years. The Atlantic Maritime Strategy was adopted that year. A Coruña hosted a European conference on smart cooperation, to highlight the importance of cooperation between towns and regions. In 2012, Charles Nicol was appointed Secretary-General until 2015. Also in 2012, the Atlantic City of the Year Competition was created and Brest was elected in 2013.

During the last period of Mr Philippe Duron’s Presidency, in 2013, the network wrote various position documents addressed to the European Union, bearing in mind its presence at key Forums in Brussels, like the future of Cohesion Policy.

The network continued its territorial analysis through diverse documents, such as Contribution of Atlantic Cities to the call for suggestions about key research and investment priorities, which proposed the priority lines of action of the Atlantic Strategy. Or the common document of the cities with the Atlantic Arc Commission, the Atlantic Transnational Network (RTA) and the Association of the Chambers of Agriculture of the Atlantic Arc (AC3A). In such way, these entities sent to the European Commission a proposal of creating a platform to coordinate and support the Atlantic Strategy.

Numerous projects were launched from 2009 to 2012. First of all, we can mention Anatole, a commitment for the development of local economy; LC FACIL, to facilitate the implementation of the Leipzig Charter (adopted in 2007) or Imagina Atlantica, in the field of image and digital skills.

Then in 2011, several projects were also implemented: Toneta, a city-network aiming at shaping an urban strategy by promoting Atlantic networks; then Action Catalist, a project on soft mobility and framed in Catalist Programme; SITE as well, for the development of intelligent transport tickets, and the Santiago-Une project which had the theme of “The road to Santiago: uniting, bringing together and motivating European citizens since the Middle Ages”. Finally, in 2012, Prevent and Jobtown were launched: the former about early school dropout, and the latter to boost professional insertion and employment for the youth.

  • Projection towards the future and the role within European Funds: Under the presidency of Mr Carlos Negreira from 2013 to 2015, former Mayor of A Coruña

In parallel with the constant efforts within the European institutions, in July 2013, the General assembly took place in Saint-Nazaire, where M. Carlos Negreira, then Mayor of A Coruña was elected President. At this reunion, it was suggested to look over identity with the objective of facing challenges of the new programming period 2014-2017. Thus, a Strategic Plan was set up to envisage new means to communicate this mission and make it more attractive for citizens, members and potential adhesions.

In 2015, the Conference presented the Atlantic Urban Strategy according to needs anticipated in the Charter of San Sebastián. In this context, the Atlantic Urban Strategy aims at coordinating different European, national and transnational policies from a common territorial approach. Some fundamental factors to implement such Strategy are, among others, the urban dimension of development, the multi-governance, cooperation, the promotion of Atlantic Arc’s potential and the joint response to collective problems. Also in 2015, Mrs Luisa Cid, Deputy Major of A Coruña, was appointed Secretary-General for a one-year period.

Concerning the projects, AT Brand was launched in 2014, on innovation in the fields of promotion and attractiveness strategies for Atlantic cities, as well as the Atlantic Blue Tech project, on the initiative of Brest Métropole and the Technopôle with the aim of promoting and developing the sector of bio-marine resources. Moreover, Anatole and Imagina Atlantica projects were extended.

  • Development plans for territorial continuity: Under the current presidency of Mr José Maria Costa since July 2015, current President of the Portuguese delegation to the Committee of the Regions and Mayor of Viana do Castelo

During the period 2015-2016, the network participated in several international events, such as COP21 about fisheries for anticipating climate change, the two editions of the Urban European Forum or the Safer Seas event. Besides, the association took part as expert in other meetings about Investment Structural Funds and the Atlantic Strategy. In addition, it has contributed to the discussions about the European Urban Agenda, an initiative launched by the European Commission and approved by State members of the EU in the form of the Amsterdam Agreement on 30 May 2016.

After the General assembly of 2016, La Rochelle Declaration was adopted with the aim of completing the European Urban Agenda and expressing an opinion about the future of Cohesion policy. In this case, the platform proposed to include city-networks in relevant Monitoring Committees and to facilitate the participation of the citizens within European policies. A working group about Cohesion policy was indeed created with Cork City as coordinator. In cooperation with the European Committee of the Regions, the network organized in A Coruña in February 2017, a conference on the Atlantic Challenges on the eve of Brexit, resulting in the Declaration of A Coruña. The conclusions were published in a report sent to the Committee of the Regions and other European Institutions.

At the General Assembly held in April 2017 in Viana do Castelo, the network has established a roadmap for transatlantic cooperation, to open up to Atlantic African and American cities and, within the framework of Brexit, to reinforce collaboration and look for new partnerships with British cities. Citizens have also been protagonists of this Assembly, since members granted them a fundamental role as beneficiaries of European policies and active participants. Since 2016, the General-Secretariat is run by Mrs Tamara Espiñeira. That same year, the Atlantic Cities signed a partnership agreement with the Association for promotion of sustainable and responsible fishing, «BLUE FISH», and the Iberian Network of Cross-border Entities (RIET).

In the context of the first call for proposals of the Interreg V Atlantic Area Programme, the Atlantic urban network has managed and supported the drafting of around thirty projects. The AYCH project about youth entrepreneurships has been approved for three years, as well as Atlantic Social Lab and Atlantic Digital StartUps, among others. Concerning the Interreg V Europe Programme, EcoRIS3 project has also been confirmed. It is coordinated by San Sebastian and focuses on innovation.