The Commission adopted an Atlantic maritime strategy in 2011 in response to repeated calls from stakeholders for more ambitious, open and effective cooperation in the Atlantic Ocean area. The strategy identified the challenges and opportunities facing the region, grouping them under five thematic headings:
Following a bottom-up consultation in the five Member States with Atlantic coasts (Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal), an action plan was developed that set out practical steps to be taken in these areas. The Atlantic action plan was adopted in May 2013. To support the implementation of the plan, the Commission launched the Atlantic assistance mechanism.
The Action Plan encourages Member States to work together in areas where they were previously working individually. They will now be able to share information, costs, results and best practices, as well as generate ideas for further areas of cooperation of maritime activities. This includes both traditional activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and shipping, as well as emerging ones such as offshore renewables and marine biotech.
Action plan priorities
The action plan considers responses to the challenges of delivering growth, reducing the carbon footprint, using the sea's natural resources sustainably, responding effectively to threats and emergencies and implementing an "ecosystem" management approach in Atlantic waters. The priorities are to:
The action plan also aims to give fresh impetus to the cooperation with other Atlantic nations, such as the United States and Canada, to better understand the dynamic of the ocean. As a result, by 2018 some 20 projects involving 320 international research teams have evolved, including trans-Atlantic neighbours as well, thanks to the Galway statement and the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, the US and Canada.
Mid-term review of the action plan
By 2017, the action plan has spurred over 1200 new maritime projects and nearly 6 billion euro of investments so far, according to an independent consultant tasked by the EU to take stock of the initiative at mid-term. Most of the projects target environmental protection and innovation, as well as improved connectivity and social inclusion (press release). However, the mid-term review showed that the plan could perform even better. The Commission is currently discussing avenues to improve the plan with the Member States and coastal regions.
The success of the Galway Statement (see above) led to cooperation in the South Atlantic, notably with Brazil and South Africa, which culminated in the signing of the Belém Statement on Atlantic Research and Innovation Cooperation in July 2017 (see press release) and the launching of the European Union-Brazil-South Africa Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation. The Galway and Belém Statements address the challenges put forward in the Atlantic strategy and have been acknowledged as major achievements of the Atlantic strategy and its action plan.