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European Straits Initiative partners gathered in Boulogne-sur-Mer

Welcome to Boulogne-sur-Mer!

Mr Jean-Loup Lesaffre, Vice President of Boulogne-sur-Mer grouping of municipalities, Ms Mireille Hingrez-Cereda, Vice President of Pas-de-Calais County Council, and Mr Mark Dance, Cabinet Member of Kent County Council, welcomed the European Straits Initiative partners. They highlighted some of the many stakes of Dover Strait and the relevance of holding this conference here – just in the most important fishing port of France and in the context of Brexit.

The conference was the opportunity to come back on 10 years of shared experiences and joint work as part of the European Straits Initiative, with 4 round tables:

  • Governance of straits' areas: which models for a successgul cross-border cooperation?
  • Connecting two shores: the stakes of transport in straits
  • Involve youth: Mob'Inclus project, an experience of international mobility of young people between straits
  • PASSAGE project: towards low-carbon straits

Two external speakers have offered new perspectives on the topics covered by the European Straits Initiative.

Mr Stéphane Resche, professor at the University of Paris-Créteil (France) proposed a vision of the culture in straits, around a question “what makes you strait?”. An introspective step aside, which raised several thoughts among the partnership, such as Mr Bruno Fontalirand, executive director of Pas-de-Calais County Council (France), who highlighted the cultural distinction of “being an interface” which is very specific to straits.

Mr Nicolas Brookes, executive director of the CPMR (Conference of peripheral maritime regions), insisted on the important perspectives offered by the new Cohesion policy being currently debated within the European institutions and called for a specific attention to be paid on cross-border maritime cooperation.

Signature of a new Memorandum of Understanding

After this intense overview of the work undertaken for the past 10 years, all partners had the opportunity to express their views on the perspectives of work for the coming years. A work programme for 2019-2022 has been adopted, proposing to focus on three main objectives:

  • Gain recognition of the particular characteristics and stakes of straits within European and national policies
  • Develop mutual exchange of experiences and implement common actions and projects to answer the challenges of straits’ territories
  • Share information related to issues in each strait and at European scale, to develop a joint knowledge basis.

The partners’ representatives have then renewed their commitment in the cooperation with the signature of a new Memorandum of Understanding for 4 years.

Field visits and discovery of local initiatives

The conference continued with visits of different sites in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where the European Straits Initiative partners had the chance to discover some of the local issues and initiatives.

On 14 May evening, the visit of Nausicaá – National centre for the sea in France and biggest aquarium of Europe, enabled the partners to better understand the challenges of protecting marine biodiversity and raise awareness of young people.

On 15 May morning, visits continued with the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, largest fishing port of France and largest centre for transformation of sea products in Europe. Partners were able to visit the auction, the landing hall, the former ferry port, the bulk port and to travel around the industrial district.

All partners were then welcome at the Socarenam shipyard, where they discovered the local know how for shipbuilding and repair. They learnt about the manufacturing process of a trawler and visited a patrol boat built for the French military force in French West Indies.

Finally, partners visited the Ifremer (French institute of research for exploitation of the sea) and its test basin used to develop new marine technologies. They discovered Eel energy start-up, which is designing a very innovative tidal wave turbine that will soon be tested in a nearby channel.


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