26th Feb 2024


EU endorses 'Danube strategy' despite environmental concerns

  • Budapest is one of the European capitals along the Danube (Photo:

EU ministers have officially endorsed the EU commission's 'Danube strategy' aimed at improving navigation and cleaning up pollution on Europe's longest river, despite criticism that some of the targets clash with green policies at national level.

"With the adoption of the Danube strategy, one of the priorities of the Hungarian EU presidency has been achieved," Hungarian foreign minister Janos Martonyi said during a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday (13 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He added that added that this model of macro-regional strategy, the second after an earlier Baltic Sea scheme, is being eyed by certain member states for their own neighbourhoods.

The strategy will involve 14 countries along the Danube - eight member states and six non-EU countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine and Moldova.

It will not bring any new funding to the region, aiming instead to better co-ordinate transport, infrastructure and environmental projects which can be financed by the EU's structural and neighbourhood envelopes, as well as tourism, better governance and culture.

Countries will be responsible for various areas, with Austria and Romania for instance responsible for Danube navigation - a topic which has already raised criticism from environmental groups such the World Wildlife Fund.

"The Danube strategy has conflicting targets, particularly when it comes to improving navigation, which can come at the expense of the environment," Irene Lucius from the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme told this website.

One particular area of concern for the WWF is the target of "eliminating existing navigation bottlenecks on the river which shall accommodate type 6b vessels all year round by 2015," as mentioned in the action plan published by the EU commission at the end of last year.

"It is an irresponsible and unwise target, put forward by DG Move [the commission's directorate in charge of transport] just one day ahead of publication of the communication, not something that was really wanted by member states," Lucius said.

In practical terms, the target would mean that parts of the river which are shallow would have to be dug out potentially destroying fragile ecosystems.

All-year round navigation would also considerably add to the pollution of already unclean waters. Both measures would be against international and regional conventions signed by Danube states.

According to an EU presidency source, the navigation target is not fixed yet, as information from various countries is still missing. "In a year's time from now we'll have a better picture and perhaps it will emerge that it is not feasible," the official said.

In Hungary's view, having public transportation along the Danube and installing "intelligent transport systems" are far more tangible and practical targets, which could both improve traffic and environmental conditions in its part of the river, which flows through the capital city, Budapest.


A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.


A tourist's guide to EU-funded Amsterdam

When it comes to projects paid for by EU regional funds, most people think of roads in Romania or bridges in Bulgaria. But richer regions also receive money. EUobserver takes you on a tour of selected projects in Amsterdam.


Tug of war between 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' cohesion money

The European Commission has promised greater flexibility for local authorities when it comes to delivering on-the-ground results - but it has also tied cohesion policy to the European Semester, a tool used to coordinate macroeconomic policies.


Commissioner Cretu: the EU budget is 'very emotional'

Despite Brexit and new priorities, it is important to keep EU funds for all regions - rich and poor - argues the regions commissioner. But more controls, including a link to rule of law issues, are part of the discussion.


A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.


The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Latest News

  1. More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK
  2. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  3. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  4. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  5. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  6. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  7. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  8. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us