Plenary sessions The EU "Strategy for the Danube Region" is a unique opportunity to foster transnational co-operation and boost sustainable economic and cultural development in Central and Eastern Europe, to the benefit of 115 million citizens, says a resolution approved by Parliament on Thursday. A timetable and specific steps for implementing the strategy should be approved by EU Member States in June, it adds.
In a debate with Commissioner Johannes Hahn on Monday 14 February, MEPs welcomed the Strategy and the Action Plan for the Danube Region presented by the Commission in December 2010.
The Strategy for the Danube Region (SDR) aims to improve mobility, energy security, environmental protection, social and economic development, cultural exchange, security and civil protection. Parliament now calls on the Hungarian Presidency and EU Member States "to endorse the SDR by the June European Council and to start its implementation as quickly as possible".
A new territorial dynamic
Linking 14 EU member states and neighbouring countries through a "macro-regional" approach will create a new territorial dynamic, MEPs believe. Provided all stakeholders, including civil society, are involved, the SDR should translate into better co-ordination and synchronisation of EU co-funded projects in neighbouring regions, multi-level co-operation and better strategic investments. Moreover, the SDR could make "a significant contribution to overcoming past divisions in Europe and thus fulfilling the vision of EU integration", says the resolution, adding that "it is an excellent opportunity for the entire Union to fortify its political and economic cooperation with the Balkans."
No fresh money
The fact the SDR will use only money available from the EU structural funds (about €1 billion, in 2007-2013), allocating no additional resources, creating no new institutions and requiring no new legislation, was welcomed by Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP, NL) and Oldrich Vlasák (ECR, CZ).
Parliament nonetheless called upon Commissioner Hahn to look into means for providing technical assistance and to investigate whether "non-absorbed financial resources could also be a source of financing for macro-regional projects."
Striking a balance between economic needs and environmental protection
Silvia-Adriana Ticau (S&D, RO), recalled the importance of completing energy and transport infrastructure and, in particular, of removing navigation bottlenecks on the Danube. Ramona Manescu (ALDE, RO), added that the implementation of multi-modal terminals should get special attention.
Elisabeth Schroedter (Greens, DE), stressed the need for measures to improve flood prevention and promote tourism within the Danube's rich but vulnerable eco-system. EU money should be spent only on projects that are consistent with EU environmental legislation, MEPs agreed.
The resolution was approved with 549 votes in favour, 41 against and 18 abstentions.REF. : 20110216IPR13778