Budapest-Bucharest-Constanta speed rail line, among Romania's main projects for Danube Strategy

Building the Danube-Bucharest canal and the Budapest-Bucharest-Constanta speed rail line, retooling the Danube ports of Romania and building two new road bridges over the Danube to Bulgaria are some of the Romanian projects for the action plan of the European Union's Strategy for the Danube Region, which main priority fields were unveiled on Thursday at a news conference by Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi joined by Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Anca Boagiu and Minister of Regional Development and Tourism Elena Udrea.

"These are concrete things that do not need new money. In the current budget plan of the EU that covers the time to 2013 there are some 45 billion euros still available. We hope that, if the projects in the action plan are started off by 2013 and receive funds, we will continue in the next multi-annual financial budget of the EU, so that the projects already engaged may be completed and we may come up with a second generation of projects for the Danube Strategy," said Baconschi.

Among other projects mentioned by the minister are securing navigability all along the entire navigable portions of the Danube, the year round; expanding broadband Internet to cover more parts of the urban areas of Romania, establishing an international institute for the Danube Delta and the Black Sea, conceiving an ecosystem monitoring system, and improving water quality by building waste water treatment plants in most of the Danube ports.

Ministers Boagiu and Udrea unveiled details of the projects for the Danube Strategy that are in the portfolio of their ministries and which they will coordinate in the future, particularly the potentials of the Danube-Bucharest canal project.

The news conference held on Thursday at the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry happened the same day when European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn unveiled in Budapest the 11 priority action fields of the Danube Strategy and the countries that will coordinate the implementation of the projects covering these fields. The 11 fields are transportation - river, land and air -, energy, tourism and culture, water quality, risk management, biodiversity, education and research, competitiveness of enterprises, human resources, administrative capacity and citizen's security.

"Each country in the region may coordinate three priority fields at most, and one filed may be coordinated by at most two countries. Each field has several actions included that will be implemented by projects," said Baconschi, showing that Romania will get involved in coordinating three fields - river transportation (jointly with Austria), tourism and culture (jointly with Bulgaria) and the management of risks generated by extreme phenomena (jointly with Hungary). MAE is the national coordinator for the implementation of the Danube Strategy projects. In this capacity, it will set up an inter-ministerial coordination structure.

"We see the Danube Strategy as a sustainable strategy, that is one geared toward environmental protection, based on new technologies and innovation in an attempt to improve the life quality of Romanian nationals living along the Romanian banks of the Danube River," said Baconschi.

He added that the Danube has been an inert river for the past decades and posed development problems to the entire southern part of Romania, but the disparities will be ironed out in 10-15 years, as most of the projects are carried out. The cities of Sulina and Braila will win back their cosmopolitan atmosphere of 100 years ago.

The countries participating in the EU Strategy for the Danube are Germany (the Baden-Wurttemberg and Bavaria lands), Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania - all EU member states - plus Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine. This vast area crossed by the river is facing many challenges, including an undercapitalised river transportation potential, the lack of road and rail links, as well as uncoordinated efforts in education, research and innovation.

Cooperation within a macro-regional framework is aimed at achieving more efficient coordination. This approach, already successfully tried in the Baltic Sea - does not entail new legislation or institutions, as it rather consolidates the links between various policies and a wide range of interested parties. This form of cooperation can be applied to solve problems such as flash floods, biodiversity of natural habitats and smuggling, but it can also generate new opportunities, including improved Danube navigation and the interconnection of the national energy markets in order to prevent electricity and fuel shortages.

Although the strategy will not be earmarked additional EU funding, the region is already drawing considerable funding under various EU programmes.

The main aim is to better capitalise on the existing financial assistance - no less than 100 billion euros under the Cohesion Policy (the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the Special European Fund), in

2007-2013 - and to show the way in which macro-regional cooperation can contribute to solving local problems. After coordinators are named for the priority fields, the strategy will be submitted to a summit meeting of the European Council this June.

Source: Romanian National News Agency AGERPRES


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