Guirao: Time has come for the Atlantic cities to raise their voice in Europe

Interview made by Marta Nogueiro, Gijon City Council to Tamara Guirao, CAAC Coordinator.

Original in SPANISH

How does the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities (CAAC) face the new strategic plan?

In the last General Assembly, the Atlantic cities network has chosen to define a very operational strategic plan. The activity is concentrated around the two main objectives of the network: defend the challenges of the Atlantic Arc cities and provide a forum for projects and initiatives around three main topics: the Creative Cities, the Green and Blue Growth and the Economic and Social Action. In this first quarter of 2014, we plan to make an official release of this new strategy, maintaining an open dialogue with EU institutions on issues that concern us.

How has CAAC received the new European budget?

CAAC has received the European budget with satisfaction, seeing that its stance for territorial cooperation has resulted in an increase of funding. However, the members of the Association have expressed certain reservations on the confirmation of the European austerity as standard, through a budget smaller than the previous one in absolute terms.

Does the new European programming adapt itself to the objectives of CAAC?

One of the objectives of this network is to provide its members a close monitoring of European policies that affect them. This continuous exposure to European institutions facilitates the integration of the objectives of the Atlantic Arc cities into European policies. An example of this is the Atlantic Maritime Strategy, whose action plan was adopted last year.

Tell us about the Atlantic Strategy

When I arrived at the CAAC in 2009, the Baltic strategy had just been adopted and the Atlantic Territories wanted to seize the opportunity to regain its position as a hub to connect Europe with the world. After an intense campaign, in which we had the opportunity to work directly with the Spanish and Irish presidencies of the European Union, part of this goal has become reality.

I say “part of it” because although a Territorial strategy was requested (and still is), the approved document is a Maritime Strategy, so the Conference will continue this fruitful dialogue with the European institutions.
Today, the Atlantic Strategy is a proposal for joint action and mainly related to maritime affairs, driven by the Atlantic territories, and piloted by the European Commission through DG MARE. The point is to go one step further in transnational cooperation and move from exchange projects to global actions, changing the linear approach “one fund, one project” to a multidimensional approach “one global action, several projects, several funds.”
For 2017, when there will be an evaluation of ongoing programmes, the network of Atlantic Arc cities will propose the territorial dimension to be added to the maritime dimension, in order to achieve an integrated Atlantic Strategy.

What is the position of the CAAC in comparison with other EU city networks?

This difference was solved in our favour in 2010, with the creation of a platform of urban and territorial networks, the Conference of European Cross-border and Interregional City Networks (CECICN). This platform is composed of nine networks ranging from the Atlantic to the borders with Russia and gathering more than 500 cities.
The CECICN ensures that territorial cooperation strengthens the projects of every city, looking for a polycentric development of the European Union. It creates synergies on the ongoing projects, defending the urban dimension of the structural funds.
Given the size of this platform, the position to manage the interests of the involved cities offers many possibilities, from a huge ease to create European partnerships to the defence of a common position of territories incorrectly called “peripherals” such as the Baltic and the Atlantic.

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