Stochiero describes a macroregion as “a pragmatic approach to the need to find new ways for public policy to become more effective in a large multi-level cross-border area, with better coordination of existing institutions and resources”. This approach was confirmed by the creation of the Baltic Strategy.
In the framework of “better coordination and more strategic use of EU programmes”, the Baltic strategy set the pillars for the European macro-regions:
- the identification of a territorial area that crosses several states (EU or non-EU) affected by common problems;
- the will to put in place strengthened territorial cooperation in a limited number of areas, aimed at economies of scale between the levels of governance and the different programs and funds;
- the implementation of a flexible agreement,
These objectives are implemented through an “Action Plan” organized around thematic areas, specifying the major challenges and flagship projects of a greater scale than traditional territorial cooperation projects.
Currently, four macro-regions are already operational: the Baltic, the Danube, the Alps and the Adriatic-Ionian strategies. The progress of the Baltic Sea Strategy immediately inspired other areas of the European Union such as the Atlantic Arc. The Atlantic territorial networks marked their desire to be part of the macro-regional approach by publishing already in 2009 positioning documents, such as the Atlantic Cities op-ed, entitled “The Baltic Strategy: A Mirror for the Atlantic“.
On 09/09/09, Atlantic associations presented the idea to the Spanish presidency (to be) of the European Union. As it was for the Baltic Strategy, the future macro-region had to be “sponsored” by an Atlantic state. This would serve to obtain the agreement of the European Council to institutionally launch the initiative. Therefore, the Spanish Presidency (first half of 2010) was a unique window of opportunity.
Thus, the Spanish Presidency brought the idea of an Atlantic strategy to the European Council. Surprisingly, the conclusions of the Council of the European Union of June 2010 invited the European Commission to “present a strategy of the European Union for the Atlantic Region as part of the integrated maritime policy”. The Atlantic would only have a maritime strategy.
Today, there is still an opportunity for evolution for the Atlantic Maritime Strategy towards a complete macro-region. The installation of a macro-regional initiative could be proposed during the Portuguese presidency in 2021. Atlantic Cities are convinced that further cooperation is paramount to have a full economic growth and to together grow out the 2020 crisis.