The project

Towards an Atlantic area?

Mapping trends, perspectives and interregional dynamics between Europe, Africa and the Americas

ATLANTIC FUTURE is a 3-year collaborative research project funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. It will be developed by a consortium of 13 partners during a period of 36 months, from January 2013 to December 2015.


In a context of a spectacular growth in Asia and the Pacific Rim and the West’s hard times, the Atlantic space is experiencing a major reconfiguration. The North America – Europe link continues to be the strongest and largest of the relationships between any two continents. But their decline in relative terms is slowly being matched by the rise of Africa, Latin America and a newly energised Arab region, all of which are increasing their interregional links and gaining weight in global affairs. Both positive factors, such as the opportunities for better management of shared resources, and negative ones, like the illegal flow of narcotics that harms the whole region, emerge as potential drivers for cooperation, competition or conflict.

The aim of the ATLANTIC FUTURE is to study the rationales of cooperation in the Atlantic area and to suggest strategies to the EU on how to engage with the wider transatlantic relationship in the context of the ongoing redistribution of power and the overall rebalancing of relations around and within the Atlantic space.

What is the Atlantic? This question does not have a straightforward answer and understanding the Atlantic is a key objective of the Project. ATLANTIC FUTURE will conceptualise the Atlantic as a space in International Relations through contrasting it to existing concepts such as region and macro-region, comparing it to other ocean basins and contextualising it in history.

ATLANTIC FUTURE aims at answering multiple research questions:
  • Is there a new pan-Atlantic system of relations really emerging?
  • How can the EU rethink its relations with emerging powers in the wider Atlantic space?
  • What are the drivers for, and obstacles to, cooperation, competition and conflict?
  • What regional and interregional constellations are developing?
  • How will be the Atlantic in 2050? What scenarios will emerge?
  • What are the key factors affecting the structure of the Atlantic space?



The main objective of the ATLANTIC FUTURE is to analyse fundamental trends in the Atlantic basin and to show how changing economic, energy, security, human, institutional and environmental links are transforming the wider Atlantic space.

5 aims guide the research:

  • Understanding the Atlantic: what we mean by “Atlantic space” and “Atlantic basin”, how we relate it to leading concepts and phenomena in global affairs and how we place this in context, not just in research and scientific disciplines but also in policy agendas.
  • Mapping change: change in the relative weights of the Atlantic players in a large number of issues (from finance to demography), impact of global phenomena on the region (climate change, redistribution of power, race for commodities, demographic trends), variations in the links and flows between regions of the Atlantic.
  • Collecting perspectives: from all four continents around the Atlantic, big powers to smaller states, stakeholders of different nature (international organisations, states, cities and regions, private firms, civil society).
  • Projecting trends: examining the evolution of current and emerging trends, focusing on the key actors and factors shaping them, building scenarios, outlining a research and policy agenda for the future of the region.
  • Identifying opportunity: potential of Atlantic cooperation in addressing global challenges, opportunities for EU Foreign Policy and for the agendas of other major Atlantic players, connecting initiatives that are building Pan-Atlantic epistemic communities.


The Project will be developed in 3 successive phases during a time period of 36 months, starting in January 2013 and ending in December 2015.


The Project will generate datasets and clusters of scientific papers to identify drivers for and obstacles to cooperation in the Atlantic space across the main thematic areas of Economy and Finance, Security, People and Institutions, and Resources and Environment.

UNDERSTANDING THE ATLANTIC. The Project will provide the grounds for a common understanding by placing the Atlantic within the context of wider International Relations debates and concepts, by making a historical contextualisation of the current events and by providing a geographical delimitation combined with a comparison with other Ocean Basins.



A wide number of stakeholders across the Atlantic will be interviewed to identify issues of common concern and to analyse foreign policy agendas of the main Atlantic actors. Stakeholders will be invited to participate in a virtual community called Atlantic 500 to exchange ideas, views, and generate debates.

MAPPING CHANGE. The trends in the four thematic areas are combined and their connections explored. The result will be the visualisation in the form of an interactive Atlas of the Atlantic that will map key connections and interdependencies among the four Atlantic regions.


Links and dynamics between the Atlantic regions and their evolution in the context of changes in the regions themselves and on the global scale will be analysed.



The project will generate instruments for a better understanding of the Atlantic space and its potential to create opportunity for the specific foreign policy agendas of Atlantic actors. The Project will highlight implications for EU foreign policy and will provide recommendations on the identified potential scenarios.

PROJECTING. The main trends emerging in the wider Atlantic space will be identified and analysed. Possible future scenarios will be outlined, derived from projecting current, emerging and foreseeable trends into the future.


At the end of the Project, in light of the findings obtained during the research, we will answer the main research question: whether a new, pan-Atlantic system of relations is really emerging in the Atlantic area beyond the traditional North Atlantic alliance and North-South dependency.

The estimated EC contribution amounts to:
2,495,276 Euros
Project number 320091