Coordinator of Priority Area 10 of EU-Strategy for the Danube Region
European Strategy for the Danube Region
The river Danube is one of the longest and most important rivers of our continent. Its basin includes wide parts of Central and Eastern Europe. On its way to the Black Sea Danube river passes 10 countries, almost 20 countries have at least tiny parts of the entire river basin. Along the river 10 autochthon languages are spoken and 12 in the whole basin. In 20th century the Iron Curtain divided the river into a capitalistic and a communist part for more than 40 years. And still the river is divided by European means: many countries on the rivers shores are not member of the European Union.
These circumstances make the river Danube Region the most international in Europe. Neither Rhine-, Elbe- nor Volga-Region have such a multicultural and administrative heterogenic structure. Also population density, GDP and infrastructure are very specific in the Danube Region. Density is far lower than in the Rhine basin and referring to GDP and infrastructure there is a big gap between countries in the Danube Basin.
This very unique situation in Central and Eastern Europe was the main reasons for implementing a macro-regional strategy for the Danube Region. Macro-regional strategies follow the characteristics of soft policy tools and are applying a multi-level and cross-sectoral
approach at the crossroads of territorial policies and foreign relations. The EU Strategy for the Danube Region was initiated in 2009 by European Council. 14 states participate in this political program. The aim is to create a new momentum through a broad range of harmonized activities. They can lead to a better spending of European funding for investments in the future, thus bringing prosperity and better living conditions to its citizens.
European Council adopted Strategy and Action-Plan in 2011. 12 Priority Areas were identified dealing with Waterways, land and air transport, energy, culture and tourism, water quality, environmental risks, biodiversity and landscapes, knowledge society, competitiveness, people and skills, institutional capacity and security. Within this framework the City of Vienna and the Slovenian Center for Excellence in Finance were asked as coordinators for Priority Area 10, Institutional Capacity and Increase of Cooperation.
The heterogenic environment of the Danube Region needs an increase of cooperation and to improve its institutional capacity. Among the 14 participating states there are huge disparities in terms of rule of law, transparency, democracy, the market economy and political stability. Efficient administrations are prerequisite for reforms and effective investments. The challenge in the Danube Region are f. e. insufficient development of e-government, lack of transparency and administrative weaknesses. Moreover, a structured bottom-up process and the involvement of civil society can contribute to sound and efficient steps to better living. The stabilization of political systems in countries and on local and regional level will enforce the macro-region.
Priority Area 10 therefore concentrates
- on development of public administrations capacities,
-on urban policies as cities are the closest to citizens,
- on the involvement of local actors as these are very active on the fields of social inclusion, sustainable development and transparency and
- on innovative financing to raise the absorption of EU funds.
Priority Area 10 has implemented several tools to match the targets:
Danube Financing Dialogue (DFD) is a series of international conferences hosted by the Danube Region’s National Banks. It merges the business promoter’s needs and the existing funding sources and financing products.
Euro Access encompasses the most relevant programs for the Danube Region. The main objective is the development and maintenance of a user-friendly database. It will include important information on EU-Funding relevant for the Danube Region till 2020.
START – Danube Region Project Fund aims at providing Seed Money. To cover the project expenses from the beginning, beneficiaries receive an early pre-financing of 50% of the total grant. The Seed Money principle shall help small organizations.
Technical Assistance Facility for Danube Projects (TAF-DRP) fills the gap between project idea owners and available funding sources by providing consultant services. The services are financed by the facility.
Some of the ongoing projects supported by these tools are:
Training4Ports for increasing the quality of port services (Romania, Ukraine and Moldova)
CDCP Roma for revising the population’s attitudes towards Roma (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia)
Authentic Danube is a project to delivering tourism excellence for visitors and industry (Bulgaria, Serbia and Austria)
CSDanube will help to increase cybersecurity in the Danube Region (Czech Rep., Austria, Croatia, Moldova, Serbia, Slovakia)
B-CAP is combining building capacity in the educational sector and the restoration of historical buildings in Romania (Austria, Romania).
Priority Area 10 is working for a better life for people in the Danube Region by involving an immense variety of actors: NGOs, trade unions, chambers of commerce, ministries, financial institutions, cities, regions and all innovative actors in the entire macro-region.