The Atlantic: Drivers of Change
On Feb. 24, 2015, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) Brussels office, in collaboration with the Barcelona Center for International Affairs (CIDOB), the Ecologic Institute, Aberystwyth University, and the Foundation for International Relations and External Dialogue (FRIDE) co-hosted a roundtable discussion on new perspectives on the Atlantic space. Entitled “The Atlantic: Drivers of Change”, the event took place within a three-year collaborative research project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, entitled “Towards an Atlantic area? Mapping trends, perspectives and interregional dynamics between Europe, Africa and the Americas.” For more information, see: http://www.atlanticfuture.eu/
The discussion kicked off with short presentations on new research findings which analyzed the changes occurring in the Atlantic basin with respect to energy, maritime security, and economic governance. It was argued that there is a high degree of fragmentation within the Atlantic space due to the growing importance of new actors and agendas. While opportunities and challenges exist when it comes to regional cooperation, there was a general consensus that there is a need for integrated policy strategies.
Countries along the Atlantic basin have strong bases for cooperation - including language, democratic institutions, and cultural proximity - which are all driving factors for cooperation in the Atlantic. It was noted that a new era of energy may be found in the pan-Atlantic space, as it has the potential to drive the future of energy with its large capacity vis-à-vis renewable energy. With the expansion of new energy infrastructures in the pan-Atlantic space, this could also lead to market development as it has already caught the attention of Chinese and Indian investments.
On maritime security, the discussion highlighted key threats; drug trafficking, organised crime, and piracy, all of which are becoming increasingly interlinked. Governments in both the South and the North see these threats as obstacles for cooperation but have not been able to adequately address the threat, which also carries economic costs for surrounding countries. Therefore, importance of cooperation to cope with maritime security issues was stressed.
The discussion concluded with a discussion on the impact of the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which was seen as vital in respect to the way the world is developing. Concerns were also raised about Europe and the U.S. becoming global economic leaders and to what degree they would provide a regulatory framework for others to follow – or whether some countries may be excluded.