A strategy to boost the development of the Danube Region was proposed by the European Commission on 8 December 2010 (Commission Communication - EU Strategy for the Danube Region).
On 3 February 2011 in Budapest, Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, together with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, announced which countries and regions will coordinate the priority areas of work for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (Press Release: European Commissioner Hahn announces priority area coordinators for EU Strategy for Danube Region).
Member States endorsed the EU Strategy for the Danube Region at the General Affairs Council on 13 April 2011 (Council Conclusions).
In the Presidency Conclusions, the European Council also supported the Strategy on 24 June 2011. This marks the beginning of the implementation phase.
What’s the issue?
The Danube Region covers 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).
The Region is facing several challenges:
Better coordination and cooperation between the countries and regions is needed to address these challenges.
Who will benefit and how?
The 115 million people living in the Danube Region will benefit from:
What exactly would change?
The EU has identified 11 priority areas, which will focus on improving:
The Strategy aims at better coordination and alignment of policies and funding. A considerable amount of funding is already available to the region especially through a host of EU programmes. For instance, € 100 billion alone has been allocated from the Cohesion policy (European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund, and European Social Fund) between 2007 and 2013. Moreover, 41 Territorial Cooperation programmes cover the geographical area of the Danube Region. Working together towards commonly identified objectives is important. Using this available support to greater effect and showing how macro-regional cooperation can help tackle local problems are central principles of the Strategy.
How was the Strategy developped?
The Strategy is the result of an extensive consultation and has been discussed with the countries concerned, relevant stakeholders within the Region (including regions, municipalities, international organisations, financial institutions, the socio-economic partners and civil society) and the relevant services in the Commission. The other European institutions have also been closely involved.
The EU Strategy for the Danube Region establishes four main pillars for action:
An integrated approach is the heart of the Strategy. It covers several policy areas making the links between them and concentrates on the main issues which concern the entire macro-region.
How does it work?
The Strategy has been prepared following the initiative of the Danube countries and it is now their responsibility to work on the implementation. The Commission helps them to achieve the objectives that they have agreed together.
It facilitates the implementation of the Action plan, through assistance with the alignment of EU funds, overall planning, monitoring, evaluation and guidance. Annual reports will be prepared by the Commission on the basis of reports the partners in order to ensure progress.
The Commission will also organise an Annual Forum in the Danube Region each year. The function of the Forum will be to discuss with stakeholders the progress of the Strategy, and to maintain a direct channel of consultation.
The Commission will also report progress to the Council by end 2012.