Transatlantic policy background

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The background to the project can be found in a 2013 European Parliament Report on the role of the EU in promoting a broader transatlantic partnership. The report calls for the EU to play a key role in a broader transatlantic cooperation including the African and South American rims of the Atlantic basin.

This project intends to contribute to putting this concept into practice. It also complements a number of other recent initiatives, including:

  •  A three-year research project, “Atlantic Future: Towards an Atlantic Area? Mapping Trends, Perspectives and Interregional Dynamics amongst Europe, Africa and the Americas”, launched by the European Commission (DG RTD). Its main objective is to analyse fundamental trends in the Atlantic basin and to show how changing economic, energy, security, human, institutional and environmental links are transforming the wider Atlantic space. The 13 partners (think tanks and universities from across the Atlantic) also aim to reach policy relevant conclusions, including a review of the EU’s interregional links with the other three littoral continents, its strategic partnerships with the US, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa and a holistic approach to the whole area – all of them crucial aspects of the role that the EU can play in today’s changing world.
  • A January 2014 Declaration and Call for Action by the Eminent Persons Group (Atlantic Basin Initiative). The Group consists of more than 100 people from Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. The initiative was initially funded by the European Delegation in Washington and by DG RTD (Atlantic Future). The Declaration and the White Paper propose five key recommendations – an Atlantic Energy renaissance; Economic Growth and Human Development; Our Common Heritage the Atlantic Ocean; Human Security and Cultivating Cultures of Lawfulness and effective Democratic Governance.
  • The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Wider Atlantic Program, which promotes a more comprehensive approach to Atlanticism, with North- South and South-South relations at the core. The initiative underscores the growing importance of Africa and Latin America as actors in the Atlantic space. It also focuses on the shared policy challenges shaping the future of four continents around the Atlantic Basin.

Focus on Marine Protected
Areas (MPAs)

The decision to focus on MPAs in this pilot project followed a process of consultation within EU institutions. The aim was to

  • maximise its effectiveness (the multiplication of activities in many different thematic threads with the limited resources available would weaken the impact of the project);
  • focus on policy areas where the pan-Atlantic perspective would bring added value for the Union, and
  • complement related initiatives being implemented by the European Commission.

Specifically, the project intends to contribute towards reaching the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Target 11. This target foresees that at least 10% of coastal and marine areas should be “conserved through effectively and equitably managed” protected areas, meaning that measures are put in place to ensure ecological integrity and the protection of species, habitats and ecosystem processes, with the full participation of indigenous and local communities, and such that costs and benefits of the areas are fairly shared.

The emphasis for this project is on supporting effective management of existing MPAs rather than the designation of new MPAs.

EU interest in MPAs

The EU has a solid experience in establishing MPAs, both coastal and offshore, which can be shared with its transatlantic partners. At the same time, the EU would benefit from the exchange of best practices with other countries, particularly on areas pertaining to the reconciliation of human activities with conservation objectives.

In 2015, the CBD’s Aichi target was re-iterated by the UN General Assembly through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (see SDG 14.5). The EU as party to both the CBD and the UN is bound by these international commitments.

The President of the EU Commission, Mr Juncker, also mandated EU Environment Commissioner Vella to “engage in shaping international ocean governance in the UN, in other multilateral fora and bilaterally with key global partners”.

MPAs and their management and governance are integral to ocean governance. The present project would strengthen the cooperation between the EU and its transatlantic partners in this field. It would therefore feed into the Commission’s efforts to establish an international system for ocean governance.

At the same time science is key in the management of MPAs. The project will bring together professionals from both sides of the Atlantic to share their experience and knowledge-based practices with the objective to provide recommendations for policy-makers with a view to protect marine biodiversity. In this respect, the project will contribute to fostering EU’s international relations and, in particular, to open up the political reflection about increased cooperation across the Atlantic rims.

Finally, transatlantic cooperation would contribute to better integration and creation of synergies between the EU’s remote territories (Outermost regions and Overseas Countries and Territories) and the other countries in the region.