EU in strategy to develop the huge potential of the Danube River

The European Commission has proposed a Strategy for the Danube Region, covering eight EU member States and six other European countries. This Strategy will focus on concrete priority action areas, such as the improvement of navigability, water quality, security cooperation and the opportunities for tourism. The strategy, according to the EU Commission, is to develop the huge economic potential of the Danube River.

EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, together with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, announced countries and regions that will lead priority areas of work. The countries and regions will drive implementation of the Strategy by agreeing on a work program and identifying sources of finance with other countries involved and partners like non-governmental organizations. Eleven priority areas have been identified.

The Strategy aims at a strong cooperation between countries, making a more optimal use of all EU funding available, without reserving new funds, setting new rules or creating new institutions. According to Commissioner Hahn, the Strategy brings a new and ambitious dimension to cooperation in the region.

By focusing on the most important issues, such as mobility, energy, pollution, innovation, jobs and security, the Strategy is expected to make a real contribution to building a better future for this part of Europe, said Hahn. The Danube Region reaches from Germany in the West to Ukraine in the East. It faces many challenges including untapped shipping potential, lack of road and rail connections, and uncoordinated efforts in education, research and innovation.

Cooperation within a 'macro-regional' framework' is intended to produce a more effective coordination. This approach – successfully pioneered in the Baltic Sea Region - does not imply new laws or institutions but rather strengthens links between different policies and a wide range of stakeholders, said the Commission.

The cooperation is also expected to improve navigation on the river and interconnect national energy markets to prevent electricity and fuel shortages. Even so, the Strategy does not come with extra EU finance, but a considerable amount of funding is already available to the region through a various EU programs.

The aim is to use this available support – € 100 billion alone has been allocated from the cohesion policy (European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Social Fund) between 2007 and 2013 – to greater effect and show how macro-regional cooperation can help tackle local problems. After the appointment of the priority coordinators, the European Council has to approve the Strategy in June.

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