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EU Strategy for the Danube Region

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EU Macro-Regional Strategies are pioneering a new model of cooperation across Europe. As the Commission is working on a proposal for the fourth such Strategy - for the Alpine Region, Euronews Real Economy magazine looks at this new trend which is changing the way regions work together across EU and non-EU borders, discussing the issue with European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu.

Real Economy reports from Croatia – a country participating in two Macro-Regional Strategies – for the Danube and Adriatic-Ionian regions. The episode assesses the success and challenges the Strategies are helping to overcome. With 'Sustainable tourism' as one of the pillars of the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy, Croatian Minister of Tourism, Darko Lorencin underlines the importance of boosting competitiveness and of strengthening national administrations to enable them to realise these Strategies' programmes.

Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu explains that while the macro-regional approach is not about creating new institutions or new legislation, it provides the platform for common actions and facilitates an exchange of information, best practice and experience. Importantly, it allows participating countries to learn from each other and to focus on a few key priorities that will bring real results and benefits to the everyday lives of the macro-regions' citizens.

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EU Macro-Regional Strategies

On the initiative of the Commission, the Transport Ministers of the riparian States of the Danube met in Brussels and agreed on Conclusions setting out a number of commitments to endorse the Master Plan for the rehabilitation and maintenance of the river and its tributaries.

Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport said "The river Danube connects people, businesses, EU Member States and neighbouring countries. It is a gateway to connect the EU to the global markets.

The ongoing analysis of the Rhine-Danube TEN-T corridor confirms the many problems inland vessel operators are facing with respect to reliability of the fairway conditions when using the Danube waterway to transport goods. I am therefore particularly pleased to congratulate the transport ministers of the States bordering the Danube on the endorsement of the Master plan for the rehabilitation and maintenance of the river and its tributaries.

In accordance with this plan, next year, the signatories to the Belgrade Convention will put in place national actions and cross-border co-ordination procedures to respond to the challenges and re-establish optimal and safe navigation conditions. They will also ensure continuous communication on the fairway situation to monitor implementation and to report regularly.

Inland navigation has plenty of free capacity and is the most energy efficient mode of transport. Our aim is to take advantage of the full potential of the Danube navigation to support the growth of our industries and the creation of jobs in the region. I am looking forward to working with all partners to achieve this goal."

Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional Policy commented: "This meeting renews the cooperation process in view of the improvement of navigation conditions on the Danube, which started in 2012, with the Declaration on effective waterway infrastructure maintenance on the Danube, and its navigable tributaries. It was the aim of Commissioners Hahn and Kallas to set up a strategic partnership for the Danube. Violeta and I, on our side, are determined to develop and reinforce this partnership. It is therefore, in the interest of all the riparian countries, to engage in close and wide cooperation.

The launching of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region was an important stepping stone for the consolidation of cooperation activities. Among others, this Strategy has already shown particularly good results in the field of Inland Waterway Transport.

You know, the European Commission recently undertook a study on the jobs potential of navigation on the Danube.

And there is good news: increased cargo transport on the river could bring more than 8,000 direct and indirect jobs to the Region. And improving conditions for cruise and leisure ships, could bring even more than that."

Economically viable transport services on the Danube and its navigable tributaries are highly dependent on stable and sufficient fairway conditions. Good navigation status can for a large part be achieved by targeted waterway maintenance activities. The Fairway Rehabilitation and Maintenance Master Plan, which was endorsed by the Danube Ministers of Transport Conclusions on 3rd December 2014, also finds broad support by the operators of Danube waterway transport services.

 

Note:
The Ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovinasigned the Conclusions. Serbia indicated it will join its signature to the conclusions at a later stage. Hungary did not yet sign the Conclusions but expressed a message of support and left open the perspective of joining the conclusions later.

The European Commission has today published a report on the governance of the EU's Macro-Regional Strategies. The cooperation method of these Strategies has gained impetus and support across Europe since the first for the Baltic Sea Region was adopted in 2009. Common challenges are tackled by a number of countries - both EU and non EU members- working together, streamlining their resources to ensure an effective and joined -up response.

But today's report shows that while the results of individual projects and initiatives in the Baltic Sea and Danube regions are positive – even more  political leadership and clearer decision-making is needed to build on the progress so far.

The report recommends changes to improve the impact, results and the sustainability of existing, and particularly future strategies – such as that of the Adriatic-Ionian and Alpine Regions which European Countries have asked for and should be adopted formally later this. This concerns primarily national and regional administrations, but also a wider range of stakeholders, and the European Commission itself.

Next month Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn will attend the Forum on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (3-4 June in Turku) and Forum on the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (26-27. June in Vienna). Also a Communication and Action Plan for the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) will be adopted by the Commission in June 2014.

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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). Member States endorsed the EU Strategy for the Danube Region at the General Affairs Council on 13 April 2011 (Council Conclusions).

For news and information on the activities and progress of the Strategy, please visit the EUSDR's dedicated website www.danube-region.eu

The Danube region covers parts of 9 EU countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia) and 5 non-EU countries ( Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova).

  • The region is facing several challenges:
    • 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
    • shortcomings in safety and security

Better coordination and cooperation between the countries and regions is needed to address these challenges.

The people living in the Danube Region will benefit from:

  • faster transport by road and rail
  • cleaner transport by improving the navigability of rivers
  • cheaper and more secure energy thanks to better connections and alternative sources
  • a better environment with cleaner water, protected biodiversity, and cross-border flood prevention
  • a prosperous region, through working together on the economy, education, social inclusion, and research and innovation
  • attractive tourist and cultural destinations, developed and marketed jointly
  • a safer, well-governed region, thanks to better cooperation and coordination of government and non-governmental organisations

The EU has identified 11 priority areas, which will focus on improving:

  • transport connections
  • energy connections
  • the environment
  • socio-economic development
  • security

The Strategy does not come with extra EU finance but it is supported from the resources already available according to an integrated approach. Countries may also make use of the funding they receive through EU cohesion policy, other EU programmes and financial instruments, and various international financial institutions.

To know more about financial opportunities visit www.danube-region.eu/pages/funding-opportunities

  • Since 2007, the majority of the countries in the Danube region are EU countries.
  • Many of the problems are covered by EU policy.
  • As an independent player with respected authority, the EU is in a good position to facilitate cooperation.
  • The EU already runs programmes in the region and so can provide opportunities for cooperation.

To get in contact with the EUSDR team in DG REGIO, please email Regio-eu-danube-strategy@ec.europa.eu

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