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Issues and objectives

The strategic stakes are high, as is the need for co-operation. The present level of co-operation is not sufficient. It is one of the significant weaknesses to be overcome in this part of North West Europe. The maritime space which straddles the cross-Channel area is a transfrontier zone. Such a Maritime border zone has its own proper characteristics, different from those associated with a land border.

For many years this distinction resulted in a failure to include such maritime border regions as eligible within European transfrontier programmes. It took some pioneering initiatives by the regions involved, and much debate, before the inclusion of parts of the cross-Channel region within the above EU programmes. Much still remains to be done before the notion of the maritime transfrontier zone is fully adopted, with all stakeholders involved persuaded of the real benefits to be derived from future co-operation. While such zones are clearly on the agenda in respect of global development, long-term sustainability, environmental and heritage management for Europe as a whole, and no less so regionally in the areas immediately affected bordering the Channel, here transfrontier action plans are as yet insufficiently developed to meet the challenges in question.

Co-operation between local authorities was instigated during the 1990s.

  • In 1996, the French Regions and the English Counties committed themselves to developing a Channel Arc Association in Europe. Kent and Nord-Pas-de-Calais initiated co-operation resulting in the Euro-Region.

    Towns sought to conduct operations going beyond traditional twinning, and a group of universities constituted an EEIG.

    The failure to include maritime zones in the Interreg programmes acted as a brake on progress. The initial co-operation between Kent and Nord Pas de Calais was extra-curricular, then growth of subsequent programmes and extension of the eligible zones as far as Seine-Maritime and East Sussex demonstrated, in the many projects developed, the pertinence of such maritime co-operation.

La mer !


It was on the basis of this observation that Arc Manche was relaunched in March 2003. Although ten years earlier, the concept of collaboration between both sides of the Channel was fairly restricted, now it became more wide-ranging. Yet the scope still appeared too narrow. Effectively, it seemed that the main strategic imperatives for this shared space, and an understanding of its internal dynamics (labelled the "Anglo-French Pond" in the Transmanche Atlas), were not all identified and endorsed. Although interest in co-operation grew, notably thanks to the support of European programmes, the tangible manifestations of co-operation remained relatively few.

A contrast emerges strongly between, on the one hand, the combined demographic and economic weight of the cross-Channel regions, totalling 13 % of population and 16 % of GDP of the EU, the respective spheres of influence of the two great metropolitan capitals, London and Paris, as well as the inter-linked outlying counties of South East and South West England with regions of North and North West France, and, on the other hand, those counties and regions non-eligible for cross-border Interreg programmes. Reducing this gap remains a major overall challenge for the cohesion, growth and quality of development in this area of North West Europe.

The EMDI project makes a more global contribution to the entire North West Europe zone on at least three levels:

  • by providing a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the transmanche zone and its strategic dimensions during a period when trade between Europe and the rest of the world, in particular Asia, must pass through this maritime gateway, albeit at a time when the enlargement of the EU will shift concerns towards the centre of the Continent.
  • There is a need to highlight the broader strategic dimension of this North West sector. The project will conduct pilot tests in selected areas via ICT, information sharing and use of virtual common work zones, etc. Finally it aims, supported by the sharing of knowledge and the tools of new technologies, to establish joint initiatives by the partners.

The project has a pilot study dimension in several respects, which could subsequently be extended more generally to the North West zone and contribute to the development of the North West Europe Spatial Vision.

Finally this project should address the need for a more balanced and sustainable development within NWE and contribute thus to the overall aim of the ESDP through strategic and thematic co-operation between the maritime regions from the whole Channel area.