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BRIT XIV conference: the strait, source of innovation

Published the 19 November 2014

For the first time, the international BRIT conference, which was held on the Franco-Belgian border in Arras, Calais, Lille (in France) and Mons (in Belgium) from 4 to 7 November 2014, examined in detail the subject of straits. This 14th edition of the biennial academic conference was marked by a field visit to the Dover Strait, which demonstrated the extent to which straits are territories of innovation.

The BRIT (Border Regions In Transition) conference was held from 4 to 7 November 2014. Starting in Arras, the administrative seat of the Pas-de-Calais County Council, the event continued with a field visit to the Dover Strait between the town of Calais and the Site des Deux Caps. It attracted no less than 270 participants representing 30 nationalities from across the world.

Twenty years after the first edition held on the Germany-Poland border and a century after the declaration of the Great War, the goal was, in particular, to trace the changes seen on the border between France and Belgium. The aim of this conference was to contribute, from a transdisciplinary angle (geography, political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, history), to a collective exploration of the innovations linked to border and cross-border dynamics. The accounts of other actors such as local authorities, served to further broaden reflection.

 

The field visit, which took place partly on the Opal coast between Calais and the Site des Deux Caps, demonstrated just how much the Dover Strait constituted a source of innovation (the Channel Tunnel, Blériot's Channel crossing by air in the last century), standing at the crossroads of major and overarching challenges whose scope stretches far beyond the territory at local level (maritime safety, illegal immigration etc.).

Two weeks after the final conference of the NOSTRA (Network Of STRAits) project and renewal of the European Straits Initiative (ESI), the Pas-de-Calais County Council represented the network of European straits at the inaugural evening and at the special session on straits, presenting the results of the work of this network after its four years of existence and drawing attention to the necessity for the European Union to recognise the specific characteristics of these territories, fragile yet at the same time constituting real assets for Europe.

After the Japan-Korean border in 2012 and the France-Belgium border in 2014, next it will be the turn of the German-Danish border to host the 15th edition of the BRIT conference. It will afford an opportunity to spotlight the construction of the tunnel in the Strait of Fehmarn (a European Straits Initiative partner), as the latest endeavour to disregard maritime borders.

With the recent arrival of the Nord County Council and the Province of West Flanders to join the Pas-de-Calais County Council and Kent County Council in representing the Dover Strait, at its level the European Straits Initiative is contributing to breaking down borders in this conference's area of focus.

 

The field visit to the Dover Strait

  • The visit to the Eurotunnel headquarters provided an opportunity to address the subject of mobility and transport in the strait region
  • Participants also visited the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre at the Cap Gris-Nez for an appreciation of the problems of maritime safety in one of the busiest straits in the world. A presentation of the Site des Deux Caps was also given.
  • The subject of illegal immigration was addressed during the visit to the Port of Calais.

 

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