Member States’ ministers for EU affairs adopted the Council’s conclusions about the Danube Region Strategy on 13 April 2011. Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, János Martonyi, who chaired the meeting, said that the first part of the Presidency’s agenda has been reached and preparations can begin for the specific programs.
In its meeting held in Luxembourg on 13 April 2011, the General Affairs Council approved the conclusions about the Danube Region Strategy developed by the Hungarian Presidency in recent months. The starting point was the communication presented by the European Commission in December 2010, and the draft submitted to Member States, was a result of the intensive negotiations of recent months. The purpose of the strategy is to ensure the sustainability and coherence of the development of the Danube Region.
János Martonyi said in the meeting, that the adoption of the conclusions also means the end of theoretical debates. “Therefore, the first part of the Presidency’s agenda has been reached and completed. Now we turn to the pre-implementation phase, so the Strategy can commence with a swift start following the endorsement by the June European Council.”
Member States have shifted to the “Three YES”principle
Although the Council acknowledged the fundamental principle of the “Three NOs,” proposed by the Commission, “the macro regional strategies do not require new EU funds, new EU institutions or new EU instruments,” Member States will also adopt the “Three YES” principle, János Martonyi said at the press conference. This means better alignment of funding, more efficient coordination of instruments and new ideas will be in focus, he explained.
Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, acknowledged the Hungarian Presidency for this initiative in the press briefing held after the meeting. “From a marketing perspective, this conveys a much more positive message,”Hahn added humorously.
In order to support implementation as quickly as possible, the Hungarian Presidency organises a coordinator’s meeting, with the participation of the national contact persons and the coordinators of priority areas of the Danube Strategy on 8-10 May in Gödöllő. Johannes Hahn and János Martonyi, appointed the coordinators responsible for 11 action areas of the Strategy, on 3 February 2011 in Budapest. The national contact persons and coordinators of the Baltic Strategy are also invited to the meeting, in Gödöllő, whose primary aim is to develop the framework of cooperation and discuss funding issues.
Next year we will also see tangible results
In response to journalists’ questions, Johannes Hahn said that the action plan drafted by the Commission contains over 100 possible projects. According to the Commissioner, in the upcoming period the task will be to select the first projects to be implemented from among these. “The first tangible and spectacular results are expected for next year”, the Commissioner added.
The conclusions also defined exact actions for the participants involved in the implementation of the strategy. The national contacts and coordinators have been requested to develop the informal network of institutes necessary for implementation, identify the interested parties and organise them into a network. They will also be required to compile a list of on-going projects and possible project ideas under the respective Priority Areas.
As part of the informal institutional network, the document invites the Commission to play a leading role in the strategic coordination of the key delivery stages of the Strategy, in partnership with the Member States and in accordance with the subsidiarity principle.
In accordance with the EU’s long-term aims
Member States agreed that there is a huge potential in territorial strategies, “In this particular case at the macro regional level, for contributing to the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU, for achieving EU objectives, for enhancing the importance of sustainable development, and for helping to adapt to future challenges the EU has to face.”
According to Member States, this will require a direction which matches the entire EU’s long-term growth objectives, so the conclusions highlights that both the Europe 2020 growth strategy, and the European Sustainable Development Strategy served as guidelines in the development of the framework of the Danube Strategy.
The involvement of third countries is crucial
The Danube Strategy is primarily an EU policy; however, the eight EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria), Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) are also accompanied by six non-EU Member States in it (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine).
The Hungarian Presidency seeks to involve third countries appropriately. For this reason, the conclusions acknowledge the inclusion and participation of third countries is crucial, if the strategy’s desired objectives are to be achieved.
Member States have clearly expressed they attach great importance to macro-regional cooperation in the future. The conclusions invite “Member States in cooperation with the Commission, to continue to work on possible future macro-regional strategies.”The Commission will have to summarize the gained experiences, and based on them, fine-tune the plans of macro-regional strategies until June 2013.