On 31 May and 1 June 2012 the Political Bureau and annual General Assembly of the Atlantic Arc Commission (AAC) of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) were held in Santander, (Cantabria, ES). Political and technical representatives from the 21 Member Regions of this CPMR Geographical Commission participated in the talks and elected the Region of Cantabria to hold the Presidency of the AAC for the next two years (2012-2014), succeeding Basse-Normandie (FR) that has held this position since 2008.
An exemplary record for Basse-Normandie as President of the Atlantic Arc Commission
Laurent Beauvais, President of the Atlantic Arc Commission from 2008 to 2012 and President of the Region of Basse-Normandie, presented his report during this General Assembly, declaring that, “the adoption of the European Commission’s Communication “Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area” on 21 November 2011 marks the culmination of a long political mobilisation for the Atlantic Arc Commission”.
The fight continues for the Atlantic Arc Commission
This is a pivotal period that now opens for the Atlantic Arc, under the encouragement of Ignacio Diego Palacios, President of the Government of Cantabria and newly elected President of the CPMR Atlantic Arc Commission, who stressed that “the European Commission’s Communication is the first step in the implementation of a real integrated strategy for the Atlantic area”. This should now become a reality in operational terms with the adoption of an Action Plan before the start of the next programming period 2014-2020. The Atlantic Forum, launched early in 2012 will be the tool made available to all partners interested in forming an Action Plan, through participation in conferences organised in the Regions of the 5 Atlantic Member States (PT, ES, FR, IE, UK) in 2012 and 2013.
For a natural recognition of the role of Regions in the preparation and implementation of the Atlantic Strategy
During a debate session held in the presence of the European Institutions, the role of the Atlantic Regions, via the CPMR Atlantic Arc Commission, was widely recognised. MEP Alain Cadec stated that “the Atlantic is the future of our Regions”, emphasising the necessity for European guidelines to be better coordinated with local and regional policies. For his part, Matthew King, Head of Unit in DG MARE, European Commission, indicated that “the Action Plan should not be limited to projects, but especially to policy recommendations”, adding that on this issue, the ideas of the Atlantic Arc were extremely important due to the vital role that the Regions will play through regional Operational Programmes, but also as co-financers of the structuring projects for the Atlantic area. Paul O’Donoghue, Committee of the Regions’ Rapporteur on the Atlantic Strategy stressed the driving role of the Atlantic Arc Commission resuming the guidelines put forward in his proposal document of 22 March 2012. “It is by being more pragmatic that we obtain tangible results. The Action Plan must rely on the Regions to create growth and employment across the Atlantic territories.” He declared. Augusto Almeida Freire, Member of the European Economic and Social Council, then presented the EESC report stressing “the need to implement participatory governance, involving as closely as possible the local and regional levels and stakeholders in the economic and social world”.
As already proposed by the Atlantic Arc Commission (refer to the document of 22 March 2012) the representatives of the European Institutions agreed on the need for long-term support of the Atlantic Strategy by prolonging the existence of the Atlantic Forum throughout the new programming period 2014-2020.
In this regard, Laurent Beauvais stated: “In order for the Strategy to be a success, the Atlantic Arc Commission must imperatively be involved with the Atlantic Forum Steering Committee. We cannot imagine that the Regions that will co-finance projects that will be created in their territories do not participate in the drafting and validation of the Action Plan”, thus calling on the European Commission to “go further” in the implementation of a genuine multi-level governance.
Ignacio Diego Palacios then invited the General Assembly to adopt a Political Declaration that marks the involvement of the Atlantic Arc Commission in the implementation process of the macro-regional strategy for the Atlantic and also the political and operational objectives that the Action Plan of this strategy must achieve. The new President also underlined the crucial importance of the issue of governance, calling on the European Commission to establish a genuine “territorial pact” in order for the regions to be involved in each stage of the decision-making process and thus guarantee the success of this Strategy.
In conclusion, he drew attention to the importance of the cultural and natural heritage shared by the Atlantic Regions. The Strategy will therefore be combined with a reflection on the creation of a “brand image”, a task that the new working group “Atlantic Culture and Tourism” of the Atlantic Arc Commission will need to address.
Pauline CAUMONT, Executive Secretary of the CPMR Atlantic Arc Commission
This post is also available in: French