• What is a macroregion?
  • The EU macro-regional strategies
  • Sea Basins
  • Other initiatives

What is a macroregion?

A macroregion is a transnational area which brings together several European countries or regions around shared challenges and which is supported by the European Union within the framework of a jointly defined “macroregional strategy”. The Council asks the Commission to draw up the strategy within the framework of a process of consultation between its different DGs, national governments, local and regional authorities and stakeholders. The strategy is then approved by the Council and is aimed at putting forward initiatives and projects that contribute to the harmonious development of the macroregional territory.

Macroregions can bring together member countries of the European Union as well as non-EU countries in order to create a space for exchanges and joint projects with the aim of strengthening territorial cohesion.
Macroregions do not receive European funding and do not have a specifically dedicated structure or legal status; they are designed to optimise the financing (whether European or otherwise) that is already available in the different countries and to pool and develop synergies between their initiatives in order to enhance the territory's integration. However, certain macroregions are also covered by a transnational programme.

The EU macro-regional strategies

The first EU macro-regional strategy is the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, that has been launched in 2009. Four EU macro-regional strategies have been adopted so far:

Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea macroregion brings together eight countries around the Baltic Sea (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland),  representing a population of nearly 85 million. The Commission publishes regular reports on the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. A revised Action Plan was agreed with Member States in June 2015.
More info on the EC website


The Danube macroregion brings together 14 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine) and a population of 115 million. The strategy, which was developed by the European Commission, aims to develop synergies and to improve the coordination of local policies and initiatives. A strategy to boost the development of the Danube Region was proposed by the European Commission on 8 December 2010. Member States endorsed the EU Strategy for the Danube Region on April 2011.
More info on the EC website.

Adriatic and Ionian region

The Adriatic and Ionian region brings together four EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia) and four Non-EU Countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia). The Commission adopted in June 2014 a Communication on the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region, accompanied by an Action Plan. The Strategy was endorsed by the Member States in October 2014.
More info on the EC website. 

Alpine Space

The Alpine Space has brought together since 2000 the seven Alpine countries : France, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Germany and Austria. The Commission adopted the Strategy for the Alpine Region and an Action Plan in July 2015.
More info on the EC website. 

Sea Basins

The EU’s macro-regional strategies cannot be dissociated from its maritime basins, which are seen as areas of cooperation between countries and infranational authorities around maritime areas and oceans. Eight maritime basins are included in the EU’s integrated maritime strategy, which has been developed since 2007:

  • the Adriatic and Ionian Seas,
  • the Atlantic Ocean,
  • the Arctic Ocean,
  • the Baltic Sea,
  • the Black Sea,
  • the Mediterranean,
  • the North Sea,
  • the maritime areas of the outermost regions.

Only the Atlantic Strategy has been formally adopted as such, in 2011. It is linked to an action plan for the 2014-2020 period, which is intended to contribute to achieving the goals of the EU strategy known as ‘Blue Growth’.
The Atlantic Action Plan

The other regional strategies for each maritime basin are either subsequently integrated into a macro-regional strategy (the Adriatic-Ionian or the Baltic Sea strategy) or left for the time being as instruments of the EU’s integrated maritime strategy.
More information on the DG MARE’s website on sea basin regional strategies

Other initiatives

Other “macroregional” type cooperation actions (without intervention from the EU) can result from the initiative of:

  • Regions, like the geographical commissions of the CPMR, with the example of the Atlantic Arc:
    The Atlantic Arc, which was set up in 1989, brings together 21 regions in five different countries (Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal). This area acts as a driving force for proposals to promote the interests of the Atlantic and puts in place active working groups and projects for the benefit of the populations and territories concerned. It constitutes a space to facilitate implementation of European policies, thus helping to promote more effective cross-border governance.