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Brussels, 1 February 2010

European Strategy for Danube Region: Commissioner Samecki launches public consultation, Ulm, Germany

Paweł Samecki, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will address the Danube Region stakeholder conference in the German city of Ulm (Baden-Württemberg) tomorrow (2 February). This marks the launch of a series of consultation events aimed at shaping the Commission's plans for a European Strategy for the Danube Region. Building on the positive experience of the first 'macro-regional' strategy in the Baltic Sea Region, this latest initiative seeks to develop the huge economic potential of Europe's longest river, and improve environmental conditions in and around the wider Danube region.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Commissioner Samecki said: "The need to harness the full development potential of the Danube region is crucial to meet shared challenges . The experience gained by the Commission in setting up the Baltic Sea Strategy in 2009 stands us in good stead. Putting in place a comprehensive European Strategy for the Danube Region will help to reinforce integration and to overcome a legacy of division, economic and social disparities, as well as deficiencies in infrastructure . Today's conference marks the moment when we move from words to action, to find a way forward that will deliver concrete and lasting results."

The Danube region encompasses 14 countries ranging from Germany in the west to the Ukraine in the east. The two-day conference provides an opportunity for representatives of national governments, local authorities, business, NGOs and academia to exchange views on the initial plans.

As well as the Commissioner, other leading participants will include Rosen Plevneliev, Minister for Regional Development and Public Works in Bulgaria, László Borbély, Minister of Environment in Romania, Bozidar Djelic, Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Wolfgang Reinhart, Minister for Federal and European Affairs in Baden-Württemberg, and Emilia Müller, Minister for Federal and European Affairs in Bavaria.

The event will feature three workshops, each linked to one of the priority areas of the strategy:

  • To improve connectivity and communication systems (within and outside the Danube region);

  • To protect the environment, preserve water resources and prevent natural risks;

  • To reinforce socio-economic, human and institutional development.

One additional workshop will be held on 'governance' looking at the potential framework structure for cooperation.

The Danube region has huge economic, environmental and social potential. The countries involved are joining forces to draw on the region’s many strengths, but also to tackle pressing issues, not least the need to improve transport and energy connections and reduce the risk of flooding. Given the complex and inter-linked nature of many of the challenges facing the region, cooperation through a coherent integrated framework will produce more effective coordination and results.

The strategy will be based on a 'macro-regional' approach - a new working method in the EU pioneered with the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. This does not imply new laws or institutions but rather strengthens links between different policies and coordinates the efforts of a wide range of stakeholders.

Although the strategy will not come with extra finance, a considerable amount of funding is already available to the region through a host of EU programmes. The aim is to use this available support – € 95 billion alone has been allocated from the cohesion policy (European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Social Fund) between 2007 and 2013 – to greater effect and show how macro-regional cooperation can help tackle local problems.

Notes for editors

The countries involved are those currently covered by the Danube Cooperation Process (of which eight are EU Member States): Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

Next steps : The conference in Ulm marks the start of a series of conferences and debates which will provide opportunity for interested parties to feed in views and ideas. The process will continue until early summer with further events planned for Hungary at the end of February, Austria and Slovakia (April), Bulgaria (May), Romania (June), and a public consultation. The Commission will propose an Action Plan and a governance system to be in December 2010, and which is scheduled for discussion and likely endorsement by the Member States in early 2011.

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