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EU Strategy for Danube Region presented in Odesa
Feb 15 2011, 13:53

The presentation has been organized by the European Commission representative office in Ukraine with support of Odesa Regional Council and the Odesa Regional State Administration Department for Foreign Economy and European Integration. The participants of the event were Chairman of European Commission representative office in Ukraine ambassador Jose Manuel Pintu Teishera, Deputy Chairperson of Odesa Regional Council Oleksiy Goncharenko, Vice Governor of Odesa Oblast Lyudmyla Varavva.

During the presentation it was stated, in order to develop the huge economic potential of the Danube river, the European Commission has end 2010 proposed an overarching Strategy for the Danube Region, which covers 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. To realise the Strategy on the ground, Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn has today in Budapest, together with Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, announced which countries and regions will lead priority areas of work. They will drive implementation of the Strategy by agreeing a work programme and identifying sources of finance with other countries involved and partners like non-governmental organisations. 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.

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.

This form of cooperation will be applied to problems such as flash floods, destruction of biodiversity habitats and illegal smuggling. It can also shape new opportunities, for instance, by improving navigation on the river and interconnecting national energy markets to prevent electricity and fuel shortages.

The Strategy contains a detailed action plan based around four pillars: connecting the Danube Region (e.g. improving mobility, encouraging sustainable energy and promoting culture and tourism); protecting the environment in the Danube Region (e.g. restoring water quality, managing environmental risks and preserving biodiversity); building prosperity in the Danube Region (e.g. developing research capacity, education and information technologies, supporting the competitiveness of enterprises and investing in people’s skills); strengthening the Danube Region (e.g. stepping up institutional capacity and improving cooperation to tackle organised crime).

It also proposes a number of time-limited targets for focus efforts, including development of efficient multimodal terminals at Danube river ports to connect inland waterways with rail and road transport by 2020; implementation the Danube wide flood risk management plans — due in 2015 under the EU Floods Directive – and include significant reduction of flood risk by 2021; reduction nutrients to restore eco-systems of the Black Sea to 1960 levels by 2020; bringing broadband fast-speed internet access to all EU citizens in the region by 2013; investment of 3% of GDP in Research and Development by 2020.

One of the first tasks of the Priority Area Coordinators will be to agree and refine these targets with the countries most involved in each area of work.

The countries involved in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region are: Germany (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria), Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The Commission proposed the Strategy at the request of the European Council. It is expected to be endorsed by Member States during the Hungarian EU Presidency in the first half of 2011.


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