Bukarest, 7. November 2011 Press release

Spindelegger: “EU Strategy for the Danube Region opens up new opportunities in the economic crisis”

Vice Chancellor at informal meeting of ministers of the Danube region

Bucharest, 7 November 2011 – “Today’s conference is intended to be the starting signal for the practical implementation of the Danube Strategy at political level. The time has come to suit action to words and to work towards achieving the first operational results by the summer of 2012”, Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the occasion of the informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the Danube region countries in Bucharest today. This first political meeting since the adoption of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region by the European Council in June has been organised jointly by Austria and Romania. The Austrian and Romanian foreign ministers were joined at this meeting by others, among them the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Moldova and Serbia.

In this past summer, steering groups were established for the 11 priorities of the EU strategy; the groups drew up work schedules and are in charge of examining concrete project proposals. The Danube countries have taken over “ownership” for the implementation of the strategy through these steering groups, which consist of representatives drawn from the 14 Danube countries. Austria has accepted the role of coordinator for three of the 11 priorities – improvement of mobility, investment in people, and improvement of institutional capacities.

Spindelegger stressed that the EU Strategy for the Danube Region will become even more important during times of economic recession. “Bundling of interests and the joint cross-border planning of investments and projects in the Danube region are now more important than ever before in order to tap increasingly scarce funds and to exploit growth potential in the best possible manner”, the Vice Chancellor said.

Austria attaches great importance to the environmentally friendly development of inland waterway transport on the river Danube where container transportation in particular offers significant development potential. Vice Chancellor Spindelegger suggested commissioning a feasibility study and advocates the development of transnationally coordinated waste management along the river Danube. “We must ensure that the development of inland waterway transportation on the Danube will not be at the expense of the protection of the ecosystem of the river and the territories along its banks.”

The Vice Chancellor reiterated the deeply human and cultural dimensions of the Danube Strategy, which extend far beyond purely economic interests and he mentioned as notable examples of the connecting role of the Danube the first Danube Forum for the Civil Society held in Eisenstadt, Austria, in summer and the recent “Literature in Flux” arts project, with its focus on a literary journey from Ruse to Vienna.

Spindelegger concluded by underlining that the foreign ministers will continue to follow up on the implementation of this strategy that is of the greatest importance for the entire region and they will in particular pay the closest attention to adequate utilisation during the coming EU financial period. With this in mind, the Vice Chancellor suggested hosting the next meeting of ministers in the second half of 2012 in Vienna.

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