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The European Committee of the Regions calls for a new Atlantic macro-region to better tackle Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic

​Atlantic regions are facing the consequences of Brexit in fisheries, trade and transport while also suffering from the impact of COVID-19 on maritime links, tourism and logistics chains

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has put forward a set of proposals to strengthen cooperation between EU Atlantic regions to better tackle the impact caused by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU’s assembly of cities and regions calls for the creation of an Atlantic macro-region that defines common strategies to boost blue economy priority sectors, including fisheries, commerce, tourism and transport. EU Atlantic regions are located in four Member States: France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. The CoR proposals can be found in an opinion led by the Spanish region of Cantabria, to be adopted at this week’s plenary session .

The Spanish region of Cantabria has presented the opinion ‘A new approach to the Atlantic maritime strategy – Atlantic action plan 2.0’ . It includes a list of concrete proposals to strengthen cooperation between EU Atlantic regions, amongst which is the creation of an Atlantic macro-region.

Paula Fernández Viaña (ES/Renew Europe) , regional minister for the Presidency, Home Affairs, Justice and External Action of the Government of Cantabria, said: “Atlantic regions are facing a twofold economic crisis. Firstly, the yet to be quantified consequences of Brexit for fisheries, tourism, trade and transport. Secondly, the impact generated by COVID-19, which includes a drastic reduction in mobility with specific effect on infrastructure, maritime links, logistics chains and the tourism industry. The creation of an Atlantic macro-region would greatly strengthen the alliance between Atlantic regions in order to better face the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and Brexit. The macro-region is an essential tool to compete for funds of the EU’s new Multiannual Financial Framework and to develop common strategic projects in the blue economy. Regions must take an active role in the governance of the Atlantic. That is the reason why we firmly defend an effective multilevel governance respecting the institutional framework of each Member State.”

The opinion gathers concrete measures including:

  • The creation of an Atlantic macro-region according to the multi-level governance model of the Alpine macro-region.
  • The inclusion of fishing, shellfish and aquaculture as a pillar in the Atlantic Action Plan (APP), since the supply of seafood products is a Green Deal priority.
  • The extension of scope of the sea motorways in the Atlantic, allowing new connections between ports, emphasizing its strategic value in connecting Ireland with the continent in the post-Brexit scenario.
  • The development of a specific economic and budgetary tool for the Atlantic Strategy.
  • The adoption of regional strategies for the methodological development of the blue economy at local and regional levels.
  • The elaboration of an inventory of blue economy activities in each region by the CoR to create a real map of blue economy development within the EU.
  • The reinforcement of transnational cooperation between Atlantic regions to meet the objectives of the new AAP.
  • The creation of the conditions to foster work in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams and to align interests and agendas.
  • The harmonization of public funding in research and innovation so that available resources are allocated more efficiently.

The CoR opinion welcomes the renewable energy pillar of the new APP, considering it as an unmissable opportunity to boost offshore renewable energy production in the EU.

The EU’s assembly of cities and regions nevertheless regrets that key blue economy activities are excluded from the AAP, such as naval and maritime construction, transport industries, recreational boating, ancillary industry and sustainable tourism activities relating to the marine environment, including water sports, cruise tourism and ferries.

Neither fisheries, shell fishing nor aquacultures are dealt as subjects in their own right in the AAP, the CoR opinion recalls.

The CoR proposes that the new Atlantic macro-region focuses on a number of sectors that have large transnational capacity like maritime energy, fishing, environmental protection, climate change, transport and scientific and technological research.

The opinion led by region of Cantabria supports the development of the “Atlantic rail motorway” and of rail port connections as well key “last-mile” connecting roads, both between existing infrastructures and between TEN-T corridors and other routes in the Atlantic area.

The CoR regrets that none of the AAP pillars are related to tourism and cultural heritage, ‘a sign of identity of the European Atlantic area’.

Cantabria’s draft opinion received the unanimous support of the Members of the NAT commission on 19 January 2021. The final opinion is to be officially adopted Friday 19 March 2021 following the publication of plenary votes.


The 19 regions involved in the project of an Atlantic macro-region are the following:

  • France : Normandie, Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Nouvelle Aquitaine
  • Ireland (all): Northern and Western, Eastern and Midland, Southern
  • Portugal (all): Norte, Centro, Alentejo, Área Metropolitana de Lisboa, Algarve
  • Spain : Comunidad Foral de Navarra, País Vasco, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, Andalucía, Canarias

Read here the interview with Paula Fernández Viaña (ES/Renew Europe) on the Atlantic maritime strategy (published 15 March 2021).

In 2011, the European Commission adopted the Atlantic maritime strategy in response to repeated calls for more ambitious, open and effective cooperation in the Atlantic Ocean area. In 2013, an Atlantic action plan was introduced to implement the strategy and in July 2020, the EC adopted an updated action plan for a sustainable, resilient and competitive blue economy in the EU Atlantic area, covering France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

The blue economy refers to economic activities in oceans, seas and coasts. It represents 5.4 million jobs in the EU and generates a gross added value of €500 billion a year (EC) . Blue economy sectors particularly suffer from the current crisis, especially tourism, the largest sector of the Atlantic blue economy generating EUR27 billion and employing almost one million people.

Green Deal Going Local (GDGL) is a new initiative by the European Committee of the Regions, which aims to place cities and regions at the core of the European Green Deal, ensuring that both the EU’s sustainable growth strategy and the COVID-19 recovery plans translate into direct funding for cities and regions and tangible projects for every territory. Green Deal Going Local was launched on 15 June 2020 with the creation of a specific Working Group composed of 13 members . Read the press release here. Discover 200 Green Deal best practices in our online map.

Press contact:

Berta López Domènech


David Crous Duran



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