Brussels, 24 May 2000
Commission adopts proposal to fund Danube Clearance
The European Commission today adopted a proposal for a Council Decision on a contribution to the "International Fund for the Clearance of the Fairway of the Danube". The EC contribution to this Fund would be 85% of the cost of the project, up to a maximum of Euro 22 million. The proposal is now transmitted to the Council and the European Parliament for urgent decision.
During the NATO airstrikes on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, three bridges over the Danube, at Novi Sad, were destroyed. The debris of these bridges, together with unexploded ordnance (missiles), is blocking navigation, causing severe economic disruption to states that border the river.
At the end of January 2000, the Danube Commission, an international organisation with responsibility for Danube navigation, adopted a project for the "Clearance of the Fairway of the Danube" and requested EC co-financing. The clearance project - which does not involve the reconstruction of any bridge(s) - involves the removal of the debris and the unexploded ordnance, to open a navigable channel, and the restoration of the riverbed and banks.
Given the importance of the Danube to navigation, and the serious economic losses suffered by riparian states, the European Commission decided, after an urgent technical examination of the project, that EC funding should be proposed. The Danube Commission took two key decisions on 17 May:
The aim is to clear the Danube as soon as possible. The European Commission has already agreed to allow the use of emergency procedures for tenders, and to reduce all deadlines to the minimum possible. Work on initial drafts of the tenders has already been underway, even before the Danube Commission decision last week, in an effort to save time. During this time, certain other preparatory stages e.g. de-mining of the site could also be completed in order to allow the clearance work to begin as soon as possible.
The clearance work - which will open a navigable channel - will take several months. Hopefully, this can be done during winter 2000, although it may be interrupted for climatic reasons. The target date to complete work to render the Danube navigable is by spring 2001. In summer 2001, the second phase - the restoration of the riverbed and banks - will take place.