The EESC supports the Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic area, which sets out priorities for research and investment in the region and provides considerable European added value in terms of boosting blue growth under the Europe 2020 strategy. Cooperation will develop within this strategic framework between authorities and social and economic operators in the Atlantic regions of the five Member States concerned: Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal.
However, the Committee regrets to note that the scope of the Action Plan is limited to the Atlantic basin and suggests that it should be only the first step in establishing a macro regional strategy that explicitly includes a territorial pillar and is linked to the objectives of cohesion policy. The approach should be more ambitious, providing for the conversion of the strategy into a macro-regional strategy before 2017, when the mid-term review is scheduled, and taking the experience of the Baltic Sea and Danube regions into account.
The Committee is sorry that the Action Plan does not provide for an adequate system of governance, envisaging only a weak implementation mechanism. In its earlier opinion on the subject, the EESC already proposed a multilevel governance system that would guarantee the involvement of all relevant players based on a bottom-up approach that would allow local and regional authorities, the private sector and civil society to spur activities and contribute their know-how directly on the ground.
It is unfortunate, in the EESC's view, that the Commission has wound up the activities of the Atlantic Forum with the adoption of the Action Plan. The Committee proposes that the activities of the Atlantic Forum be continued until 2020, with regular meetings of interested parties to stimulate activities and programmes under the strategy, evaluate their implementation and mobilise all policy-makers and economic and social players in the Atlantic region.
It is essential to maintain a firm political commitment on the part of the EU institutions and the Member States, and ensure effective participation of all relevant parties: local and regional authorities, social and economic players, and civil society. With the Leadership Group and the Steering Group during the Atlantic Forum it was possible to involve the EU institutions, the Member States, the regions and civil society. The Commission must have the necessary human and material resources.