A brief by Tamara Guirao, CAAC coordinator
Heritage, culture and identity have been at the core of cooperation in the Atlantic Arc. If we quote the “Study of prospects in the Atlantic regions” published by the European Commission in 1994, we find that (p.44):
“The historical role of the Atlantic Ocean as a major communications route highlights an important cultural feature that is common to many cities: a great openness to the world, whether in the adventuring sense like St Malo, famous as a base for privateers, or Seville, the starting-point for Christopher Columbus’s expedition, or in the financial sense, like Nantes, or in the intellectual and political sense, as in the case of Portugal. The cultural solidarity between these regions is largely based on their maritime character and the existence of so many ports. With the sea in their blood, the inhabitants of these finis terrae have always been great travellers. Names such as Magellan, Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain bear witness to this taste for discovery.
During the course of their travels, the Celts of the sixth century left their mark in many places (placenames, monuments, artefacts), in Ireland, Brittany, Galicia and Portugal. But these historical affinities are not sufficiently well established in the mind to forge a Celtic Atlantic identity. Only those regions strongly impregnated by a Celtic heritage, like Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Galicia, promote contacts and cultural events. Finding expression in the Celtic regions as in the Basque Country, mutual recognition and the encouragement of diversity are proofs of a persistent desire for cultural autonomy.
Given the globalization of trade and the economy, and also of cultures, it has proved necessary to promote these regional cultures. “
All Atlantic networks have taken this recommendation on their action. For instance, in the Declaration of Rennes in 2000, CAAC is “aware of the dynamism of the Atlantic space’s economic, cultural and territorial players and of their ability to contribute strongly”. In 2008, while drafting the San Sebastian Charter for Green, attractive and solidarity-based cities, Atlantic Cities agreed that “The fruit of a rich, centuries-long common heritage, the Atlantic identity is also being shaped at the present time through its unique features reflected in particular in its maritime culture and above all the will of the various partners to work together. This Atlantic identity is an asset that should be exploited so as to enhance the attractiveness of this territory for its inhabitants, its enterprises and the tourists who visit it.”
So, in the proposals made by the Atlantic Arc Cities to the Atlantic Strategy, it is highlighted that “The Atlantic Arc, structured among other lines by the Way of St. James, shares a common culture (“the Celtic essence”), a common history (covenants, wars and mutual invasions), a long history of trade, beginning with copper in the era of the Phoenicians, followed by the fishing tradition, until the more recent salt industry. One must also not forget that the Atlantic cities have, for many centuries, been entrances to Europe for discoveries. It is worth highlighting that it is this shared identity and its reflection which creates unconscious bonds between the citizens of the different countries. The common history, the heritage, the geography, determines the Atlantic identity, and is elements that not only facilitate cooperation, but also make the exchange quite natural.”
Thus, so as to ensure the suitability and effectiveness of the Action Plan, the Atlantic Strategy should take into account the Culture and Identity of the Atlantic Arc Territories.