Cross-border maritime cooperation

The EU context

An increasingly visible policy

At the intersection of cohesion policy (which in 2007 significantly expanded the maritime element of its “territorial cooperation” component) and of the European Union’s integrated maritime policy (IMP), the importance of territories separated by straits or maritime basins (the English Channel, the Bouches de Bonifacio, etc.) for the development of the European territory as a whole is now firmly established.

In 2008, the issue of maritime cooperation was given greater visibility at European level by the creation of DG MARE1. It is now the European Commission’s department responsible for developing and carrying out the Commission’s policies on maritime affairs and fisheries (common fisheries policy (CFP) and the integrated maritime policy (IMP)).

In the 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 programming periods, the EU’s support was extended in the area of cross-border maritime cooperation to new frontiers and has led to its parameters being made more specific. In the case of France, which previously was only concerned on two of its borders (the Dover/Pas-de-Calais Strait and the France-Italy maritime space), this extension, on account of the 150 km rule2, concerns all of the territories bordering the English Channel as well as France’s overseas departments (which for the first time became eligible for cross-border cooperation). France is now part of four cross-border maritime cooperation areas: France-(Channel)-England, Two Seas; Italy–Maritime France; the Caribbean Space; and the Indian Ocean Space (in the latter two cases, the programme comprises a cross-border component and a transnational component). For the 2014-2020 period, a Mayotte-Comoros programme will be added3Discussions are underway to determinate whether maritime cooperation shall be regrouped with transnational cooperation in the 2021-2027 period or if it will be kept within the cross-border cooperation segment.

In addition to the categories of straits and basins, there is the case of territories that share a common coastline (the French-Italian Riviera, the French-Belgian coastline, etc.), notably in the context of “integrated management of coastal zones”.

In order to promote maritime cooperation, a cross-cutting and multi-sectoral approach is needed – see the DG MARE’s “blue growth” strategy4.   Moreover, in March 2013, the Commission adopted measures aimed at supporting blue growth via the sustainable management of marine and coastal areas (see the challenges of sustainable development below).

The opportunities in the new context of the Lisbon Treaty and the 2020 horizon

The Lisbon Treaty strengthened the principle of subsidiarity (which for straits means that Europe and the Member states have a greater obligation to involve the local authorities in these coastal areas in the formulation of policies); and territorial cohesion now features alongside economic and social cohesion in Article 175 of the Treaty, which, in addition, explicitly mentions among the areas requiring “particular attention” “cross-border regions” and island regions: straits and maritime basins are therefore included. It is now commonly agreed that territorial cohesion concerns at once:

  • Recognition of the diversity of territories and the specificities of their challenges and assets (their “territorial capital”) which need to be taken into account in public policy (“place-based” approaches). On this point, the regions bordering straits and maritime basins present both risks (conflict between transport and the environment, uncontrolled migratory flows) and opportunities (places people transit through and where cultures meet, joint exploitation of fisheries resources, etc.) and thus require particular attention.

  • European territorial integration, through the deployment of trans-European transport networks (see also the development of maritime transport below) in which straits play a crucial role with respect to maritime and land transport, and also through territories being served. Constructing major infrastructures allowing straits to be crossed can be a huge opportunity in terms of accessibility and the extensive serving of the territories that they cross (example of the Øresund, where the permanent link is both a European corridor and an internal TC link within the new cross-border Copenhagen-Malmö conurbation) provided that the services do indeed serve the territories concerned (problem of intermediate stations not being served as in the case of the Channel Tunnel).

  • The processes of public policy-making and particularly horizontal coordination (policies regarding a single territory – a strait for example); vertical coordination (between European, national, regional and local policies; and cooperation (for example between neighbouring countries that are separated by the sea).

The Europe 2020 strategy

The implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy is based not only on the formulation of thematic objectives, but also on an integrated approach which can utilise different channels: that of maritime policy (regarding issues such as maritime transport, climate change and natural resources, etc.) and that of cohesion policy.

To contribute to the Europe 2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the European draft regulations for the 2014-2020 programming period set out 11 thematic objectives for the European funds’ scope of action, with several of them being directly related to maritime issues. In addition, the regulations encourage a territorial approach for the allocation of funds, and maritime cooperation is clearly part of this. In this respect, the draft regulations proposed by the Commission in early October 2011 present several opportunities potentially concerning maritime cooperation:

  • A more strategic approach, with regulations explicitly aimed at “macro-regional strategies” that have already been initiated or are in the process of being drawn up (strategies for the Baltic,  the Atlantic5,  the Adriatic, etc.) and “maritime basin strategies”; but also because the national “partnership agreements” will have to have the objective of cooperation and therefore to be coordinated across each border, including maritime borders (existing strategies, such as that of the Channel Arc Manche,  should therefore be mobilised).

  • Integrated territorial development mechanisms such as “common action plans” or “integrated territorial investment” which could apply in the case of straits.

In this context, it is interesting to mention an example from the 2007-2013 programming period: the “Ports Riviera Cooperation” cross-border integrated plan  in the Interreg IVA ALCOTRA programme (FR/IT) aimed at promoting the sustainable development of marinas along the French-Italian Riviera.

  1. At that time, the European Commission reorganised the directorate-general responsible for fisheries and maritime affairs in order to give impetus to the application of the European Union's integrated maritime policy and common fisheries policy (the latter having been created in 1982). The old DG FISH became the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and was renamed "DG MARE". The most important change consisted in the creation of three geographical directorates, which now manage both the common fisheries policy and the European Union's new integrated maritime policy (IMP) in the three main European maritime regions. In addition, a new directorate was set up charged with the coordination and formulation of policies.

  2. Rule in the 2007-2013 operational programmes, stipulating a maximum of 150 km between coastal territories (condition of eligibility of maritime cooperation projects under the cross-border strand).

  3. It should be noted that France has the second-longest maritime coastline in the world with more than 18,000 kilometres of coastline. It has 11 coastal regions and 26 coastal departments in mainland France (the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Channel) and 5 overseas departments.

  4. "Blue growth" is a long-term strategy to support growth in the maritime sector as a whole. It aims to:
    - Identify and tackle challenges (economic, environmental and social) affecting all sectors of the maritime economy;
    - Highlight synergies between sectoral policies;
    - Study interactions between the different activities and their potential impact on the marine environment and biodiversity;
    - Identify activities with high growth potential in the long term and support them by removing the administrative barriers that hamper growth; fostering investment in research and innovation; and promoting skills through education and training.
    Blue growth focuses on existing, emerging and potential activities such as: short-sea shipping; coastal tourism; offshore wind energy; desalination; and use of marine resources in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

  5. COM(2011) 782 final 21/11/2011: "Developing a Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area" and COM(2013) 279 final 13/5/2013: "Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic area"