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European Union Strategy for Danube Region
Following a request from the European Council, the Commission presents a strategy aimed at developing the Danube Region in a coherent and sustainable way. Emphasis is placed on mobility, energy, innovation, the environment, risk management and security.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 8 December 2010, European Union Strategy for Danube Region [COM(2010) 715 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Danube Region has more than 100 million inhabitants and represents one fifth of European Union (EU) surface. It is therefore a vital region for Europe. The fourteen countries along the Danube, of which eight are EU Member States, are faced with common challenges.
The Danube Strategy is based on experience gained with the Baltic Sea Region and proposes an integrated Action Plan organised around four pillars:
- connecting the Danube Region;
- protecting the environment;
- building prosperity;
- strengthening the Region.
Connecting the Danube Region
The Strategy aims at improving mobility and multimodality (the use of several means of transport for a single journey) in the Region by developing sustainable inland navigation and road, rail and air infrastructures.
Furthermore, the energy networks have many gaps and deficiencies, due to insufficient capacity, low quality or poor maintenance. The production of more sustainable energy is to be encouraged.
The Danube Region also has a rich cultural heritage. The Commission therefore wishes to encourage the promotion of culture and tourism so as to give the Region a European and global dimension.
Protecting the Environment
Environmental resources are shared across borders and go beyond national interests. This is particularly true of the Danube Region, which includes mountain areas such as the Carpathians, the Balkans and part of the Alps. As a result, the Region has some of the richest flora and fauna in Europe. However, it has not been spared environmental disasters and pollution. Danube States must take joint measures, and in order to do this the Action Plan proposes to restore and maintain the quality of waters, to manage environmental risks, and to preserve biodiversity, landscapes and the quality of air and soils.
The Region includes some of the most competitive areas in the EU but also the poorest, the most highly skilled and the least educated, and the highest and lowest standards of living. In order to overcome disparities in education and employment, and to promote social inclusion, the Action Plan aims to develop the knowledge society through research, education and information technologies. It also seeks to support the competitiveness of enterprises and to invest in people and skills. Marginalised communities (including Roma, the majority of whom live in the Region) should benefit in particular.
Strengthening the Region
The dramatic changes since 1989 transformed society. Particular attention is needed as the Danube Region includes Member States which have joined at different moments, as well as countries applying for EU membership and other third countries. Most face similar problems, but with different resources available. Thus, in order to improve institutional capacity, cooperation and security, the Action Plan proposes to work together to promote more efficient administration of security matters and to tackle organised and serious crime.
The Region has EUR 100 billion from European funds for 2007-2013 and the strategy seeks to contribute to more effective use of available funds.
The Commission will coordinate areas of action. It will be assisted by a High Level Group composed of representatives of all Member States. In collaboration with the Danube States that are not Members of the EU, the Member States will be responsible for coordinating each priority area. All levels of power (national, regional, municipal and local) are to participate in implementing the actions. The Commission will produce reports in order to monitor development and progress.
The Strategy is the result of a public consultation and debates between stakeholders. It contributes to the Europe 2020 Strategy for sustainable and intelligent growth. The Member States concerned are Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania.