EU STRATEGY FOR THE DANUBE REGION
Within the EU regional policy, macro-regional strategies significantly gained importance over the last years. Several macro-regions were identified throughout the European territory, covering large areas across national borders. The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) was adopted in October 2009; the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) started its implementation in June 2011 ; the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR) was endorsed by the European Commission in 2014; and the EU Strategy for Alpine Space Region (EUSALP) is currently being developed. Discussion about possible other future European macro-regional strategies are ongoing.
Given their identical geographical scope, the difference of macro-regional strategies and respective transnational cooperation programmes might not seem obvious at first glance. However, it should be highlighted that:
- Macro regional strategies are not funding instruments. A macro-regional strategy is an integrated framework (endorsed by the European Council), which may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area which thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion. They rather seek to create synergies and coordination between existing policies, funding instruments and initiatives taking place across a given macro-region
- Transnational cooperation programmes like the Danube Transnational Programme (DTP) are funding instruments contributing to the realisation of different EU policies and strategies, including macro-regional strategies. Yet, for either policy or (macro-regional) strategy they are only one instrument among further funding opportunities
- Transnational cooperation programmes and macro regional strategies are based on different policy and/or legal frameworks, defining – amongst other - different sets of rules, thematic priorities, internal governance structures and administrative procedures
The European Union Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) intends to develop coordinated policies and actions in the area of the river basin, reinforcing the commitments of Europe 2020 strategy towards the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth based on four pillars and eleven priority areas. These shall tackle key issues as mobility, energy, biodiversity, socio-economic development or safety.
In line with the goals of territorial cooperation objective, the Strategy is not focusing on funding, but rather on enhancing closer cooperation within the concerned territory. A key element of the strategy is coordination, by encouraging the increase in the level and quality of network activities, strengthening the existing regional and interregional cooperation but also fostering new cooperation.
HOW THE EUSDR WORKS
The Danube Region Strategy addresses a wide range of issues; these are divided among 4 pillars and 11 priority areas (see image below). TheEUSDR Action Plan presents operational objectives, projects and actions for each priority area. In addition, concrete targets are defined for each priority area. Each priority area is managed by 2 Priority Area Coordinators (PACs). Steering groups advise and assist the work of the PACs. Further to that, some priority areas created working groups around sub-themes and tasks. The National Coordinators (NCs) coordinate the participation of their country in the implementation of the EUSDR. The role of the NC is to promote the Strategy and inform relevant stakeholders on the national level of key developments. The EUSDR website (www.danube-region.eu) provides general information about the EUSDR, its governance, priority areas and PACs, targets per priority area, funding opportunities and key documents.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF DTP PROJECTS TO THE EUSDR
The set-up of the DTP thoroughly considered the EUSDR. As one result of the close alignment of DTP and EUSDR, all DTP Priority Axis and related Specific Objectives show direct linkages to the pillars of one or more EUSDR Priority Areas (see also the DTP Cooperation Programme chapter 4.4.1). However, not all eleven EUSDR Priority Areas are equally reflected by the DTP due to the thematic concentration applied to all territorial cooperation programmes in the EU programming period 2014 – 2020.