The EU Strategy for the Danube Region

21-05-2015

Responding to the objective of achieving territorial cohesion, the macro-regional approach promoted by the European Union has gained momentum since 2009 and has been put into practice, first in the Baltic Sea Region and subsequently in the Danube River Basin and the Adriatic-Ionian Region through the implementation of strategies targeted at each of these areas, the Danube Region Strategy being one such example. Now that these first macro-regional strategies have been in operation for a few years, efforts have been made to draw initial lessons from them by assessing their results, the added value of the concept, and the suitability of the governance model applied. Reports from the European Commission, while highlighting the strategies' impact in terms of projects, coordination and integration, promotion of multi-level governance and territorial cohesion, underline the need for stronger political backing, commitment and leadership from the participating countries and regions. Stakeholders have called for a more streamlined governance structure, criticised the limited involvement of civil society organisations, local and regional actors in planning and decision-making processes, and pointed to capacity shortcomings impeding their participation. The question of capacities and resources is of critical importance. As macro-regional strategies do not bring additional EU funding, the participating countries or regions are expected to do more with what is available to address the challenges and opportunities requiring their cooperation. Putting this principle into practice is not a smooth process. This is especially true for the Danube macro-region, which is very diverse in membership. It covers 14 countries whose development levels and status in relation to the European Union (including their access to EU funding as a result of the latter) are not the same. The wide disparities between the partners have a significant impact on the operation of the strategy.

Responding to the objective of achieving territorial cohesion, the macro-regional approach promoted by the European Union has gained momentum since 2009 and has been put into practice, first in the Baltic Sea Region and subsequently in the Danube River Basin and the Adriatic-Ionian Region through the implementation of strategies targeted at each of these areas, the Danube Region Strategy being one such example. Now that these first macro-regional strategies have been in operation for a few years, efforts have been made to draw initial lessons from them by assessing their results, the added value of the concept, and the suitability of the governance model applied. Reports from the European Commission, while highlighting the strategies' impact in terms of projects, coordination and integration, promotion of multi-level governance and territorial cohesion, underline the need for stronger political backing, commitment and leadership from the participating countries and regions. Stakeholders have called for a more streamlined governance structure, criticised the limited involvement of civil society organisations, local and regional actors in planning and decision-making processes, and pointed to capacity shortcomings impeding their participation. The question of capacities and resources is of critical importance. As macro-regional strategies do not bring additional EU funding, the participating countries or regions are expected to do more with what is available to address the challenges and opportunities requiring their cooperation. Putting this principle into practice is not a smooth process. This is especially true for the Danube macro-region, which is very diverse in membership. It covers 14 countries whose development levels and status in relation to the European Union (including their access to EU funding as a result of the latter) are not the same. The wide disparities between the partners have a significant impact on the operation of the strategy.