Brussels, 9 April 2013
Danube Strategy Progress Report: A good start, now it's time to move up a gear
The European Commission has released the first progress report on the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region, two years after it was first launched. It details significant achievements in tackling problems from missing transport links, lack of competitiveness, to pollution and crime. 14 countries make up the Danube macro-region, of which 8 are EU member states. The report details how through numerous shared projects and initiatives they have already managed to establish a concrete system of co‑operation.
But the Commission report calls on the Danube governments to follow up on their political commitments by making the Strategy a priority across all relevant policy areas. And it urges the 8 EU member states involved, as well as Croatia, to incorporate the Strategy into their plans for the next generation of programmes under Regional Policy for 2014-20.
EU Commissioner for Regional Development, Johannes Hahn, said: “We have made a very good start. The Danube Strategy is already showing that by working together we can have a far greater impact than if we try to tackle problems in isolation. Now we need to step up a gear. For the 14 countries involved, co-operation cannot be an afterthought or some vague ideal. I would like to see the priorities of the Danube Strategy in our next generation of Regional funds programming and firmly embedded in the national, regional and local priorities in every one of the countries involved. The Strategy should be informing every relevant policy area with politically stable, adequately financed structures to support it."
The Report focuses on concrete progress in the four key areas of the Strategy: Connecting the Danube Region, Protecting the Environment, Building Prosperity and Strengthening the Danube Region.
The report says EUSDR has served to set a up an invaluable long-term structure for co‑operation and has generated a clear political commitment among its partners.
The Report sets out clear recommendations for the future: It calls on EU member states to incorporate the Strategy into the new generation of programmes for Regional Policy 2014-20.
It urges governments to make efficient, combined use of the funding available: of the European Structural and Investment Funds and also Horizon 2020, COSME and the Connecting Europe Facility.
It calls on the 14 countries involved to make sure there are adequately staffed and financed structures in place nationally to deliver the Danube Strategy priorities.
It calls on EU governments to take on the aims of the Danube Strategy at the relevant sectoral meetings of the Council of Ministers (for example EU Transport Ministers, Environment Ministers, Research and Interior Ministers)
The report highlights a number of new projects and details how the Strategy is giving momentum to existing initiatives through collaboration and by helping to combine funding. This is contributing to the EU’s long-term growth agenda, 'Europe 2020'
Connecting the Danube Region
(Transport links/sustainable energy/culture and tourism)
Declaration on maintenance of the Danube waterway adopted by Ministers of Transport of the Danube Region in June 2012. Key agreement on navigability between Romania and Bulgaria. The Strategy gave impetus to the completion of the Calafat-Vidin Bridge, linking Romania and Bulgaria - only the second bridge along the 630 km river section of the border. New research projects on innovative vessels, like project NEWS to renew the Danube fleet. The Bulgaria-Serbia gas interconnector project is advancing to link the Baltic Sea area to the Adriatic, Aegean and Black Seas.
Protecting the environment in the Danube Region
(Water quality, environmental risks/preserving biodiversity)
The Danube Floodrisk Project: 8 Danube countries sharing databases and flood mapping. The Danube Sturgeon Task Force to secure viable populations of this important fish in the river.
Building prosperity in the Danube Region
(Research capacity/ education/ information technology, competitiveness of enterprises)
Danube Region Business Forum, coordinated by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, involves more than 300 SMEs – supporting links with research institutes and universities. Danube Research and Innovation Fund, building on the experiences of the BONUS programme in the Baltic Sea Macro-Region. A joint Declaration of all 14 Danube Region Ministers for Research: signed in Ulm, Germany, 9 July 2012
Strengthening the Danube Region
(Institutional capacity/co‑operation to tackle organised crime,)
Deepening co‑operation among Danube Region police authorities: an initiative from police chiefs themselves to improve measures against river-related crimes (including organised crime), and setting up a transnational law enforcement platform. EUROPOL threat analysis project for the Danube Region.
The Strategy was launched in 2011 (IP/11/472) after a request 2 years earlier by EU governments. The 14 countries in the macro-region (8 EU members ) are: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova.
The first Annual Forum of the EUSDR was held in Regensburg, Germany in November 2012 - with Chancellor Angela Merkel as keynote speaker The second Annual Forum will be held in Bucharest, Romania on 28/29 October this year. The Danube is the EU's second macro-region, home to more than 100 million people. The first was the Baltic Sea Region Strategy launched in June 2009. The upcoming Report on the evaluation of the macro-regional strategies is expected by June 2013. At the December 2012 European Council EU governments asked the Commission to propose a third Ionian/Adriatic macro-region.