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IP/10/1687

Brussels, 9th December 2010

Commission launches Strategy to boost development of the Danube Region

The European Commission has today presented its proposal for an EU Strategy for the Danube Region and its 115 million inhabitants. This initiative seeks to develop the huge economic potential and improve environmental conditions of the region. By establishing a framework for long-term cooperation on a wide range of issues, the Strategy will play a key role in improving sustainable transport, linking energy systems, protecting the environment, preserving water resources and stimulating the business climate. With its focus on sustainable growth, it will also make an important contribution to achieving the Europe 2020 goals. The Strategy will bring added value, by ensuring coherence between different policy areas, and greater coordination between participating states. While there are no new funds for implementation of the Strategy, closer alignment of programmes adopted by the Danube states should mean that the €100 billion available to the region in the current financial period achieves  greater impact.  This Strategy proposes the EU's second only "macro-region", following the creation of the EU macro region in the Baltic Sea area.    

European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said: "During the consultation period the Danube states have shown their commitment to the creation of a new macro-region at the highest level. The Strategy and Action Plan we are proposing are based on over 800 submissions from the Region itself. By focusing on the most important issues, such as mobility, energy, pollution, jobs and security, I am convinced that the Strategy will make a real contribution to building a better future for this part of Europe. This second EU macro region will play an important part in pioneering this form of co operation. I am convinced that the macro-regional approach can bring excellent results, as we are already seeing in the Baltic Sea Region.''    

The Danube Region encompasses 14 countries (of which 8 are EU Member States) ranging from Germany in the West to the Ukraine in the East. It faces challenges including untapped shipping potential, lack of road and rail connections, uncoordinated efforts in education, research and innovation, and environmental threats. The recent disaster of the toxic sludge spill in Hungary is a clear illustration of the need to work together beyond borders to prevent spread of pollution and combat effects of such catastrophes.

Given the inter-linked nature of many of these challenges, cooperation within a 'macro-regional' framework, is intended to produce  more effective coordination. This approach does not imply new laws or institutions but rather strengthens links between different policies and between a wide range of stakeholders. It aims to serve the interest of the region as a whole while taking into account its diversity.

Although the Strategy will not come with extra EU 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 – € 100 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.

The Strategy contains a detailed action plan based around four pillars:

  • Connecting the Danube Region (e.g. improving mobility, encouraging sustainable energy and promoting culture and tourism)

  • Protecting the environment in the Danube Region (e.g. restoring water quality, managing environmental risks and preserving biodiversity)

  • Building prosperity in the Danube Region (e.g. developing research capacity, education and information technologies, supporting the competitiveness of enterprises and investing in people’s skills)

  • Strengthening the Danube Region (e.g. stepping up institutional capacity and improving cooperation to tackle organised crime)

The Strategy is open-ended, but includes a number of time-limited targets, to mobilise effort, including:

  • increasing cargo transport on the Danube by 20% by 2020

  • reduce nutrients to restore eco-systems of the Black Sea to 1960 levels by 2020

  • bring broadband fast-speed internet access to all EU citizens in the region by 2013

  • secure a viable population of Danube sturgeons by 2020

To achieve the targets, the strategy lists a series of actions which will also make an important contribution to achieving the broader Europe 2020 goals for sustainable and smart growth. Examples include: the modernisation of the fleet of ships for the rivers; construction of two bridges over the river between Romania and Bulgaria; promotion of the Danube region as a tourist destination; building of waste water treatment plants where required; establishment of joint research centres, and; improvement of living conditions of Roma communities.

A selection of some of the indicative projects set out in the action plan, are listed in the annex.

Background:

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

The Commission is proposing the Strategy at the request of the European Council. It has been the request of Member States that the European Commission facilitate the creation of the Strategy and its implementation.

Today's proposal is the result of a public consultation and a series of stakeholder conference debates involving Member States, regional and local authorities and other stakeholders. The Strategy is likely to be endorsed by Member States during the Hungarian Presidency in the first half of 2011.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/cooperation/danube/index_en.htm

Annex:

Indicative examples of projects presented in the Action Plan include:

  • Completion of priority EU transport projects (TEN-T) crossing the Danube Region e.g. the 'Magistrale' railway axis linking Paris – Budapest through Stuttgart, Ulm, Munich, Vienna and Bratislava

  • Promotion of eco-technologies and protection of the biological diversity of the region (the Danube river basin hosts more than 300 species of birds and action is urgently needed to ensure their existence is not threatened by industrial and agricultural pollution)

  • Development of joint flood risk maps for the entire Danube, based on a wide involvement of local, regional and national stakeholders

  • Improvement of navigation on the Danube, including the development of inland ports, based on a general analysis of transport and logistical needs

  • Development of renewable energies e.g. hydropower and geothermic energy

  • Modernisation of railways between major cities

  • Implementation of the Blue Danube cooperation project on urban waste water treatment – to reduce pharmaceutical residuals in water

  • Implementation of eco-efficient production processes in small businesses

  • Demining of the mine-suspected areas


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