EU Strategy for the Danube Region

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    On 3 December 2018, the Transport Ministers of the countries of  the Danube region  gathered in Brussels upon invitation of EU Commissioner Violeta Bulc to reinforce their commitment to an effective navigation status of the Danube and its navigable tributaries.

    The Danube Transport ministers of 10 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine) adopted the “Conclusions on effective waterway infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance on the Danube and its navigable tributaries”. The decision was taken to strengthen in 2019 and beyond the implementation of the Fairway Rehabilitation and Maintenance Master Plan developed by the EUSDR Priority Action 1A, in order to meet the targets fixed by the existing international legal framework.

    Already 95 million EUR have been invested through EU co-financed projects within the frameworks of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the Operational programmes and the Instrument for Pre-Accession. Considering the crucial economic role played by the region in the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) as well as the environmental advantages of inland navigation, ministers underlined the importance of resources in order to maintain activities in this sector.

    The Ministerial Conclusions address the next steps to take and focus in particular on measures to encourage the joint work on Navigation and Security within the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (PA1A and PA11), with the view to further secure and harmonize fairway navigation conditions and digitalize administrative processes. In particular, removing bottlenecks at borders controls will allow more efficient processes in Danube navigation. Rehabilitation of strategically important lock facilities, reduction of administrative barriers and greening of the inland fleet also feature in the Conclusions.

    Every day, unsung heroes all over Europe join forces to make the EU a safer, more sustainable and inclusive place to live. At a time when great global challenges such as globalization and climate change cannot be tackled in isolation, they work tirelessly to counter their divisive effects through concrete projects on the ground and to bring the EU closer to its citizens. We share their stories, as they are achievements for all of us, and pay homage to them on our new media platform: “EU PROTECTS – together we protect”. This initiative covers topics such as safety, health, society but also environment.

    One of the recently featured stories in particular highlights the efforts made in the Danube Region to save the sturgeons and to support the communities relying on these fish species, central to their culture and livelihoods. DG REGIO and DG ENV’s close cooperation contributed to bringing together these actors. They are researchers, NGOs, local officials, fishermen and teachers, committed to raise awareness about the threats on ecosystems and the need for fit biodiversity conservation measures.

    The EU protects the environment, by helping heroes to connect their fights and by encouraging synergies between their diverse backgrounds and the different scopes of their actions. For more information about the EU funded projects aiming at sturgeon’s conservation, click here.

    Photo: One of the local heroes, Thomas Friedrich in Vienna, Donauinsel, Life Sterlet Project 

    Feasibility study on Iron Gate dams commissioned to explore joint solutions

    The signature of the grant agreement this week between the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and DG REGIO enabled the launch of a feasibility study, in order to identify ways forward in the preservation of fish stocks at the Romanian-Serbian border. This action is an important step in the context of efforts aiming to save the Danube sturgeons from extinction, which is a central objective of the EU Strategy for the Danube River. Despite its longevity, this dinosaur fish is considered one of the most endangered species in the world.

    The hydroelectric power plants Iron Gates I and II are the largest dams on the Danube River and one of the largest plants in Europe, located at the Iron gate gorge jointly managed by Romania and Serbia. This engineering system is instrumental in allowing provision of hydropower and easier navigation. The disruption of river continuity however constitutes an obstacle for migratory fish, among which sturgeon species, Danube salmon and European eel.

    Faced with the issues of biodiversity loss and habitats degradation, stakeholders and international experts have therefore joined efforts to raise awareness on the need for ambitious fish conservation measures. In this respect, the 2020 target of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, the EU Water Framework Directive, the EU Habitats Directive as well as the Bern Convention, provide a framework conducive to the development of specific conservation measures.

    The project supported by the European Commission aims at further harmonising and strengthening these initiatives. A first preparation phase (2011-2016) enabled a dialogue between the ICPDR, relevant stakeholders, and the European Commission – represented by DG REGIO and DG ENV. It is now followed by a second phase: a feasibility study, endowed with a budget of 400.000€ and foreseen to finish in 2020. The third and fourth phases respectively regard technical design (2021 – 2023), and implementation (2024 and onwards).

    The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) has long realised the importance of this unique fish and endorses sturgeons native to the Danube as a flagship species. This commitment was emphasized on the occasion of the Danube Ministerial Conference in December 2016, where the ICPDR adopted sturgeons as a flagship species and reiterated at the annual Ordinary Meeting in Vienna in December 2017 with the announcement of the adoption of the Sturgeon Strategy. The ICPDR works closely on this matter with their partners in PA 4 Water and PA 6 Biodiversity of the EUSDR. 

    In line with the terms of reference of the feasibility study, the ICPDR will coordinate and implement the activities jointly with the Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development (DDNI) and the Jaroslav Černi Institute for Water Resources Development (JCI). The study’s overall general objective is to map out solutions for achieving the EU Strategy for the Danube Region's PAs 4 and 6, as well as the ICPDR Sturgeon Strategy.

    With their long reproductive cycles and extensive migratory patterns, sturgeons are indeed extremely sensitive to environmental changes, making them an umbrella species and key indicator of the ecological status of rivers. The first stages of the research will therefore consist in analysing the current situation, gathering data and monitoring the fish migratory behaviour. The results will feed into an action plan ultimately allowing fish to fulfil their life cycle, through hydromorphological improvements.

    The completion of the whole study still requires significant additional financial means, for which identification of funding sources will be crucial. Efforts in this regard will be supported by the outcomes and deliverables of the first stage. 


    Images source: HE Djerdap

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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

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 12 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

  • 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