First Conference on the EU Strategy for the Danube Region

On 1 and 2 February 2010, a first stakeholder event will take place in Ulm (Germany) marking the launch of the consultation process to draw up the first EU Strategy for the Danube Region. Members of the Commission, heads of state of the Danube countries, ministers and other authorities of the Danube countries will attend the meeting.

Drawing closely on the experience of the EU's Baltic Sea Strategy, EU Member States formally requested the European Commission to draw up a tailor-made strategy for the Danube Region by the end of 2010.

Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the Danube has become an internal EU waterway. As one of the "Trans-European corridors" it represents a priority axis for inland waterway traffic across the Union. Improving navigability for cargo, in a more environmentally-friendly manner, is an important challenge.  Recently, the European Parliament has demanded the European Commission to to start broad consultations as soon as possible with all countries along the Danube and to determine a "governance structure" for a strategy

The new strategy will not only be focused on the Danube River, but on the Danube Region as a whole. It will bring the opportunity to address the major socioeconomic disparities in the region and contribute to the greater cohesion of the Union as a whole. It will encompass a host of themes: transport, energy, environment, risk prevention, socio-economic development, education and national and regional identity and culture.

The strategy will be based on a “macro-regional” approach - a new working method in the EU which strengthens synergies between different policies and coordinates the efforts of a wide range of stakeholders (including regions, municipalities, international organizations, financial institutions, the socio-economic partners and civil society).

The conference in Ulm marks the start of a series of conferences and debates which will provide opportunity for interested parties to feed in views and ideas. The process will continue until early summer with further events planned for Hungary at the end of February, Austria and Slovakia (April), Bulgaria (May), Romania (June) and a public consultation. The Commission will propose an Action Plan and a governance system to be formally adopted early 2011 by the Member States.