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REGION OF THE WEEK:

Danube Region

Danube Strategy

27/06/2012

Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn is making a tour of the Danube region from 27 June to 1 July, one year after the launch of the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region (Danube Strategy). During the tour which comprises seven countries -in chronological order: Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria-, the Commissioner will meet high-level political representatives as well as stakeholders and pay visits to flagship projects of the Strategy. He will also participate in the celebrations of the Danube Day on 29 June in Belgrade.

The Danube, which is 3000 km long and crossing 14 countries, is the most international river in the world. The Danube region, where 115 million people live, covers parts of 8 EU countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania) and 6 non-EU countries (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova) and has an enormous economic and social potential, but also several challenges to face: environmental threats (water pollution, floods, climate change), untapped shipping potential and lack of road and rail transport connections, insufficient energy connections, uneven socio-economic development , uncoordinated education, research and innovation systems and shortcomings in safety and security.

To address their challenges, these 14 countries together with the Commission have developed the Danube Strategy to facilitate and enhance coordination and cooperation between the countries and regions.

 

What are the region's priorities?

The Danube Strategy has three main objectives which are set out in a detailed Action Plan with 11 priority areas:

  • "Connecting the Region": multimodality and navigability, sustainable energy, culture and tourism, people to people.
  • "Protecting the Environment": water quality, environmental risks, biodiversity landscapes, air and soil quality.
  • "Building Prosperity": science and research, competitiveness, people and skills
  • "Strengthening the Danube Region": institutional capacity and security.

 

What contribution does the EU’s regional policy make?

Although the Danube Strategy does not come with extra EU finance, a considerable amount of € 100 billion EUR EU financing – also beyond the regional policy financing – was available to this macro-region for the period 2007-2013.

As regards regional policy, European Territorial Cooperation programmes with financing from the European Fund for Regional Development help to support the development of the Danube Region and strengthen cooperation between the participating countries. During the 2007-2013 programming period, several territorial cooperation programmes supported by the EU were available to the Danube Region, among them the Central Europe programme (€ 246 million) and the South East Europe programme (€ 206 million) and cross-border programmes.

 

Project examples

Following projects in the Danube Region will be visited by Commissioner Hahn during his Danube Region tour:

  • Integrated River Engineering Project on the Danube to the East of Vienna: EU contribution 7.6 M€
  • This project is co-funded by the Trans-European Transport Network programme. The free flowing section of the Danube between Vienna and the Austrian-Slovakian border has the character of a mountain river with high flow rates, frequently fluctuating water levels suffers an on-going erosion of the riverbed which seriously affects the ecological balance of the Danube Flood plain National Park. The strongly fluctuating fairway depths furthermore curtail liability and competitiveness of the navigation over this section. To address these problems, the project "Integrated River Engineering Project on the Danube to the East of Vienna" has been launched in 2001. The pilot project "Witzelsdorf" which is already finished, has restored the Danube bank to its natural condition on a length of 1.7 km and the pilot project Bad "Deutsch-Altenburg" which is still in in process aims at testing the river engineering measures which are planned to be implemented on the whole Danube section between the Freudenau power plant and the Austrian-Slovakian national border.

  • The Gabčíkovo Dam in Slovakia:

    The Gabcíkovo - Nagymaros Waterwork was originally a joint project from Hungary and the Czechoslovak Republic dated from 1978. Since Hungary decided to abandon the project because of environmental concerns, a variant of the original project has been realised in Slovakia under the name of "Gabcíkovo dam". The Gabcíkovo dam consists of two main structures: a hydropower plant which has a capacity of 720 MW and two lock chambers which serve passing ships and barges sailing along the Danube and therefore help to improve navigability on the Danube river.

  • Hungary Project Danube Limes - UNESCO World Heritage ("Nomination of the Central European part of the Roman Danube Limes within the international UNESCO World Heritage Framework 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire'")- EU contribution 1.5 M€

    This project is a joint project from Hungary, Austria and Slovakia which aims at getting the Danube as former Roman natural border 'Limes' recognised as an UNESCO world heritage site in their territories. A general scientific concept to protect the river Limes would be developed in order to preserve cultural heritage in these regions and such recognition would attract tourism and create jobs. Hungary is preparing a nomination for 2012 for the path of the former Roman military road stretching along the Danube, as well as the military structures found in its wider surroundings that fall within its territory.

  • Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station in Romania

    The Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station in Romania is the largest dam on the Danube river and one of the largest hydro power plants in Europe. It is located on the Iron Gate gorge, between Romania in the north and Serbia in the south. The project started in 1964 as a joint-venture between the governments of Romania and Yugoslavia for the construction of a major dam on the Danube River which would serve both countries and was launched in 1972. It was one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in the world with twelve units generating 2,052 MW, divided equally between the two countries at 1,026 MW each. The Romanian part of the dam was modernised and the nominal capacity was increased. The dam's construction had a consequent negative impact on the environment. With support of the EU, the flora and fauna, as well as the geomorphologic, archaeological and cultural historical artifacts of the Iron Gates have been under protection from both nations. In Romania this is done with Iron Gates National Park and in Serbia by the Đerdap National Park.

  • Construction of the second Danube bridge between Calafat (Romania) and Vidin (Bulgaria): EU contribution 106 M€

    The 1750 metres road and rail bridge across the Danube river between Vidin (BG) and Calafat (RO) will only be the second bridge along their 630 km border. This project will create shorter rail and road transport routes that should link Greece overland through Bulgaria and Romania to Central Europe. The implementation of the bridge has been delayed but it should be completed by the end of 2012.

  • Business incubator, "BIOS" in Croatia: EU contribution 1M€

    The objective of this project is to support Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) by providing business consulting, technical assistance and educational services in addition to preferential prices of business facilities lease. The services are intended for manufacturing start-ups, high-tech and innovative businesses and spin-offs. BIOS started up in April 2009. It currently hosts 28 companies employing 150 persons. This project is linked with the Danube Strategy since it contributes to fulfil one of the Strategy's objectives to strengthen Danube Region entrepreneurs and SMEs.

  • The "Zezelj" bridge in Serbia: EU contribution 26.2 M€

    The 1750 metres road and rail bridge across the Danube river between Vidin (BG) and Calafat (RO) will only be the second bridge along their 630 km border. This project will create shorter rail and road transport routes that should link Greece overland through Bulgaria and Romania to Central Europe. The implementation of the bridge has been delayed but it should be completed by the end of 2012.

 

Further information