The first expert meeting on the Strategy of the Danube Region during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU was a meeting of the coordinators of priority areas, held at 'Boyana' Residence.
“The Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) will be challenging – for Bulgaria, but also for all stakeholders of the EUSDR. Currently, Bulgaria also holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Having this central role together with the Danube Strategy Presidency is an exceptional opportunity for us to actively participate in setting up the European agenda”, Deputy Minister Nikolova said in her opening address. She also emphasised that Bulgaria's participation in the Strategy is one of the most valuable and strong political commitments undertaken over the last decade. The added value for Bulgaria from this membership, she said, is an opportunity to build strong partnerships and support in the implementation of joint strategic projects between countries with the potential to contribute for more visible effects on the economic development and territorial cohesion.
According to the Deputy Minister, in the context of formulating the new European programmes for the period after 2020, this year shall be crucial to come up with solutions on the role and impact of the Strategy on the regional development along the Danube river. “Today's meeting is a key platform to discuss all the challenges we face and to outline the opportunities we have as key drivers for the implementation of the Strategy and achieving a better outcome,” said Ms Nikolova. She also noted the need for a constructive discussion on the revision of the Strategy's Action Plan and on the formation of the new structure that will help manage and implement the Danube Strategy. These topics shall be in the focus of the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Union's Strategy for the Danube Region.
The participants in the expert meeting presented information on the activities of different countries in implementing the main priorities of the Strategy, commented on the challenges the Strategy is facing, and exchanged experience on the project development and finding sources of funding. The event was chaired by Denitsa Nikolova, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works and National Coordinator of the Danube Strategy. The forum was attended by more than 60 experts from all 14 Member States of the Strategy, representatives of the European Commission, the Danube Transnational Program and other stakeholders. The forum is part of the programme of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU in view of the close connection between the topics at macro-regional and European level.
In October 2017, Bulgaria officially took over the presidency of the Danube Strategy for a period of one year. A series of working formats (detailed drafts) are scheduled for the first half of 2018 and the leading events - the Annual Forum and the Meeting of the Ministers in charge of tourism in the region - will be held on 18 and 19 October in Sofia.
The Danube Strategy was adopted in 2011. It covers 14 countries with a population of 100 million people, which is one fifth of the EU population. The strategy relies on a regional approach: promoting the collaborative work between a wide range of stakeholders to address common challenges, but without creating new institutions. The aim of the Strategy is to develop the huge economic potential of the Danube River, the second longest river in Europe (2,850 km), which connects the Central European countries with the Black Sea region, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Globally, the implementation of the Danube Strategy will make the region an attractive place to live, offering good opportunities for work, clean nature and rich cultural life. It focuses on the cooperation and making use of common capacities, such as completing transport connections, reducing pollution and flood risks, limiting the dependency on energy suppliers, coping with demographic changes, etc.
The Danube Strategy is based on four priorities, called pillars: connectivity, environment, building prosperity and sustainability of the region. They in turn contain 12 areas of cooperation: 'Mobility and Intermodality', 'Sustainable Energy', and 'Culture and Tourism' are within the first pillar, 'Water Quality', 'Risk Management', 'Biodiversity, Landscapes', and 'Air Quality and Soil Quality' are comprised within the second pillar, 'Knowledge Society', 'People and Skills' and 'Competitiveness' fall within the third pillar, and 'Institutional Capacity and Co-operation' and 'Security' are in the fourth pillar. Each of the scopes has two coordinating countries. Bulgaria has partners in Priority Area 3 - 'Culture and Tourism' with Romania and in Priority Area 11 - 'Security' with Germany.