St. Polten, Austria, October 22, 2012
The informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers from the Danube Region took place in St. Pölten, Austria, on 22 October 2012 in the presence of Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn and was preceded by the annual governmental conference of the Working Group Danube Region (ARGE Donauländer).
A follow up to the informal foreign ministerial meeting on the EU Strategy for the Danube Region organized in Bucharest last year (November, 7-8), the St. Polten meeting reinforced the prevailing opinion that continued political guidance is needed to maintain the dynamics of the EUSDR process and the overall commitment to the implementation of the Action Plan.
The main subjects discussed by the Ministers were first experiences with and perspectives for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), efficient planning and coordination for a coherent
implementation of the Strategy and the roles of towns and regions as catalysts for cooperation in the Danube region.
Ministers agreed that good cooperation between the countries of the Danube Region will speed up the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy (by having projects with a bigger impact) and will improve the quality of results (by an exchange of experiences).
Ministers expressed their gratitude to all actors and stakeholders of all levels who have supported
the Strategy so far. They stressed the importance of continuous support for National Contact Points and Priority Area Coordinators for the implementation of the strategy. The support given by European Institutions has also been of particular importance and shall be sustained. Ministers
thanked Commissioner Hahn in particular for his personal commitment to the joint endeavors.
Ministers agreed that the implementation of the EUSDR has taken off very well since mid-2011. The process has already strengthened the cooperation between Danube Region countries – both EUmember states and non-member states. EUSDR governance structures have successfully been put in place, first synergies between existing and new activities have been identified, and the process has already triggered joint activities and new common projects.
In his speech, Commissioner Hahn welcomed the results of the Macro Regional EU Strategy for the Danube region just one year after its implementation: an action plan with priority areas has been put in place, cooperation between the Danube states is being enhanced through the National Contact Points. The navigability on the Danube river and cooperation in research and innovation are some of the key issues being addressed. 73 new EU co funded projects which aim at implementing the Danube Strategy have already started.
Present at the event, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Titus Corlăţean mentioned that, through a functional institutional structure, Romania fostered, in the framework of the EU Strategy for the Danube region, several projects designed to promote economic growth in the Danubian region.
Noting the close cooperation with the European Commission in the context of the Strategy, the Romanian Foreign Minister hailed the idea of developing a future transnational cooperation program, the “Danube” program, which would provide new opportunities for putting into practice the goals of the EU’s Danube Strategy. “We are at the stage of implementing specific projects at a national and macro-regional level and we have a list of 150 major projects funded from the EU’s current 2007-2013 financial framework, approved by the Government of Romania, 83 of which are relevant for the Danube Strategy,” stated Titus Corlăţean.
The Romanian official also underscored that “tangible results, translated into projects of economic and social importance, are the ones that will eventually measure the success of the Strategy. We are aware of this, and after today’s meeting I think we have shown we maintain our optimism, at a regional level, as well as our firm political commitment in this respect.”
Concurrently, the meeting offered substantial elements for the agenda of the first EUSDR Annual Forum to be held in Regensburg, Bavaria on 27-28 November 2012. The participants renewed the firm commitment of authorities in the 14 states in the region to support the implementation of projects launched under the aegis of the Danube Strategy and to act in such a way that the complex mechanism for the management of the initiative may function efficiently.
The participants agreed on adoption of a Joint Declaration of the Ministers from states in the Danube region. (click here for a full version).