Speaking at the Atlantic Conference at Malahide recently (Tuesday 7th February), Matthew King representing the EU’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs, outlined the Commission’s plans and indicative timetable for the Atlantic Forum to inform the EU Strategy for the Atlantic (EUSA). The Forum is not an entity, but rather a process or series of events to prepare an Action Plan for the EUSA. Timing is of the utmost priority as work on a new financial framework for the period 2014-2020 has already begun. Priority marine and maritime related projects need therefore to be positioned in the Partnership Contracts and Operational Programmes drawn up between Member States and the Commission in order to benefit from future EU co-funding, such as from structural, cohesion and regional development funding, which the Commission has proposed to be over €660 billion, for the period 2014-2020.
Mr King outlined an indicative timetable which is currently being discussed with Member States. This included an invitation from the Commission to Atlantic Member State Governments (Ireland, UK, France, Spain and Portugal) to identify a suite of strategic and large-scale co-funded flagship projects (by April 2012). Such projects must add value in terms of job creation, economic development and stewardship of our shared ocean resources. This input will inform a Consultation Document to be hosted on the Atlantic Forum website (https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/maritimeforum/category/555) circa June to July. Member States will then be invited to organise a number of Regional Stakeholder Meetings (September-October) to be followed by the preparation of a draft Action Plan (circa November 2012). A closing event would be organised in Brussels in January 2013 and the Irish Government has signalled it would like the formal adoption of the Action Plan to take place during the Irish-EU Presidency (Jan-June 2013).
Addressing the Conference, Minister Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, described Ireland’s oceans as an extraordinary natural resource and a key component of Ireland’s future development strategy. He noted that the timing of the national consultation Our Ocean Wealth, launched by the government on 2nd February, was opportune and would not only define future government marine policy but would feed into the work of the Atlantic Forum.
Other speakers presented a range of innovative collaborative projects, co-funded under the INTERREG-IV Atlantic Arc Programme, in areas such as maritime transport, renewable ocean energy, maritime tourism, artisanal fisheries and coastal pollution response. Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute, addressing the conference said that Ireland now had the research and innovation capacity, the specialised infrastructures and international linkages to be a major player in the Strategy for the Atlantic and the delivery of a thriving marine economy.
The Atlantic Conference, titled “The Marine Economy – A key component of the EU Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area” was organised by the Border, Midlands and Western Regional Assembly and the EU Atlantic Area INTERREG Programme. The Conference was attended by over 170 delegates from across the Atlantic Area representing public and private organisations, local and regional authorities, universities and research institutions.
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The establishment of Sea Basin Strategies is one of the cornerstones of the Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union (2007). Sea Basin Strategies provide a local and regional focus on the opportunities and challenges in a sea basin region (e.g. Atlantic Sea Basin) and take stock of region specific issues and existing initiatives that can support growth and job creation through the sustainable development of our shared marine resources –'Blue Growth'.
Sea Basin Strategies are considered to represent a coherent and balanced regional development plan that is consistent with the Europe 2020 Strategy and its flagship initiatives (Innovation Union, Resource Efficient Europe, European Research Area) as well as European Maritime Policy (Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, Marine Strategy Framework Directive, etc).
A European Union Strategy for the Atlantic (2011)
In November 2011, the Commission launched its Communication “Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area” based on widespread consultation with various stakeholder groups. This document outlines the challenges and opportunities facing the Atlantic Ocean area, which are grouped into five themes:
• Implementing the ecosystem approach, including fisheries, aquaculture, environmental protection (Marine Strategy Framework Directive – MSFD), Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and Ocean observation;
• Reducing Europe’s carbon footprint, including climate change, renewable ocean energy (offshore wind, wave and tidal), the greening of maritime transport, motorways of the sea, etc;
• Sustainable exploitation of the Atlantic’s seafloor natural resources, including mineral exploitation, marine biodiversity/biodiscovery, marine data and seabed mapping;
• Responding to threats and emergencies, including maritime safety, risk management, security, etc;
• Socially inclusive growth, including education and training, the establishment of maritime clusters, marine tourism, etc.
Developing an EUSA Action Plan
In developing an EUSA Action Plan, the Commission point out that the Atlantic strategy will not succeed with action from the EU institutions alone - it requires the active engagement of Member States, regions, local authorities and private industry.
Developing the strategy for the Atlantic Ocean area is based on the following methodology:
• active engagement and initiative of Atlantic Member States, regions and other stakeholders in designing and implementing actions – the Atlantic Forum;
• promoting inter-regional and international cooperation;
• adopting an Action Plan for the strategy in 2013, indicating specific projects and actions recommended for support;
• "Smart governance" to implement the strategy, building on current structures (no new administrative structures, no new funding, no new legislation).
The Atlantic Forum
To assist the process of developing an Action Plan, the Commission proposes to establish an Atlantic Forum inviting all stakeholders - national, regional and local authorities as well as industry and civil society – to contribute their expertise and ideas to the Action Plan.
• The Forum will comprise a set of workshops focused on the challenges and opportunities outlined in the strategy and an online discussion forum;
• The Forum will be launched in 2012 and dissolved in 2013,
• The Action Plan will be implemented through Commission and Member State co-financing in the period 2014 – 2020.
A website is being developed for the Atlantic Forum:
For further information see:
Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area
Ireland welcomes the European Union Strategy for the Atlantic
For information on other Sea Basin Strategies, including the Baltic Sea, see:
Our Ocean Welath Consultation
Get informed and join the debate at www.ouroceanwealth.ie