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Danube Area

Region's countries

Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the south-eastern Länder of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and four provinces of Ukraine.


Policy framework

1.    Transnational cooperation programme

The INTERREG V B Danube Programme (DTP) 2014-2020 covers the Danube River basin, which is the most extended in Europe and stretches from the Alps and the Carpathian to the river plain and its mouth in the Black sea. It has the same geographical scope as the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), supporting its implementation. For the period 2014-2020 the DTP focuses on four priority axes:

  1. Innovative and socially responsible Danube region;
  2. Environment and culture responsible Danube region;
  3. Better connected and energy responsible Danube region;
  4. Well-governed Danube region.

During this period, the programme is expected to promote:

  • Research and innovation;
  • Competences for business and social innovation;
  • Sustainable use of natural and cultural heritage and resources;
  • Transnational water management and flood risk prevention, disaster risk management;
  • Environmentally-friendly, safe and balanced transport systems;
  • Energy security and energy efficiency;
  • Intensified cooperation to increase management capacities of Priority Area Coordinators (PAC) to effectively implement the goals, targets and key actions of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region.

As water represents an essential resource of the region, the DTP 2014-2020 deals with challenges related to climate change mainly in the context of transnational water management, flood management and related risk management. Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are explicitly considered under priority 2, corresponding to the programme's thematic objective on ‘Environment and resource efficiency’ (TO6). In addition, the DTP addresses three horizontal thematic aspects highlighted in EU regulations including that of sustainable development. Furthermore, contribution to enhanced awareness of adaptation to climate change and risk prevention is included among the projects' selection criteria.


2.    Macro-region strategies

The EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), adopted by the European Commission in December 2010 and endorsed by the European Council in 2011, is a macro-regional strategy which was jointly developed by the EC, Danube countries and stakeholders in order to address common challenges together. The strategy seeks to create synergies and coordination between existing policies and initiatives taking place across the Danube region.

The EU Action Plan for the EUSDR addresses climate change impacts on extreme weather events (floods, drought, forest fires, storms, erosion, icing, and water scarcity), hydrological cycles, precipitation patterns and water level variations, which affect water management throughout the Danube River basin in manifold ways. Among the 11 priority areas of the EUSDR, climate change impacts and climate adaptation issues prominently feature in the environmental pillar of the strategy, which is composed of priority area 4 ‘To restore and maintain the quality of waters’ (PA4), priority area 5 ‘To manage environmental risks’ (PA5) and priority area 6 ‘To preserve biodiversity, landscapes and the quality of air and soils’ (PA6).

Among these, PA5 has up to now the highest relevance to adaptation. Targets defined in PA5 include addressing the challenges of water scarcity and droughts and supporting the implementation of the Danube Flood Risk Management Plan, taking into account potential impacts of climate change and adaptation strategies. The EUSDR Action Plan encourages actions related to adaptation within PA5 with the following foci: transboundary flood risk management plans at basin level, wetland and floodplain restoration (as a means of passive flood protection and in the context of green infrastructure), transboundary flood alert systems, transnational cooperation of emergency response authorities, research on regional and local impacts of climate change as well as climate- and flood-proof spatial planning and construction activities.

Due to geographic overlaps with other macro-regions, also the European Strategy for Alpine Space (EUSALP) and European Strategy for Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR) are to some extent relevant for transnational cooperation on adaptation in the Danube region.


3.    International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The main objective of the Danube River Protection Convention (DRPC) is to ensure that surface waters and groundwater within the Danube river basin are managed and used sustainably and equitably. The signatories of the convention have agreed to co-operate on fundamental water management issues. Climate change is addressed in an indirect way by aiming at, inter alia, the conservation, improvement and rational use of surface waters and groundwater as well as at preventive measures to control hazards originating from accidents involving floods. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) has been created for coordinating the implementation of the convention. In February 2010, Ministers and high-level representatives responsible for water management in the Danube countries and from the EU endorsed the ‘Danube Declaration’, which expresses the commitment to further reinforce transboundary cooperation on sustainable water resources management within the Danube river basin and emphasizes that adaptation measures are needed to avoid significant threats from climate change impacts. In order to take the required steps, the ICPDR was asked to develop a Climate Adaptation Strategy for the Danube River Basin.

In order to improve the coordination of trans-boundary water management activities – also related to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction - in the Danube River basin, the ICPDR and the EUSDR elaborated and agreed on a ‘Joint Paper on Cooperation and Synergy for the EUSDR Implementation’.

The area of the Carpathian Convention is mainly included in the Danube transnational region. This sub-regional treaty was signed in 2003 by seven Carpathian States (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, and Ukraine) and aims to improve the quality of life, strengthen local economies and communities, and conserve the natural values and cultural heritage of the Carpathian area. In 2011, the Convention established the Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change to collect information and data on climate change, promote regional cooperation on adaptation in the mountains and develop joint projects. In 2014, the Strategic Agenda on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Carpathian Region was adopted. It includes recommendations for policy, institutional change and potential priority adaptation actions, and it calls upon countries, local and regional authorities, and other stakeholders to formulate policies and design strategies to adapt to climate change. Detailed information including links to the most relevant documents on adaptation in the Carpathian mountains is provided by the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention based on submission from the Convention´s Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change.


4.    Adaptation strategies and plans

In response to the ‘Danube Declaration’, the Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change of the ICPDR was adopted in December 2012. It provides the knowledge base and a strategic framework for integrating adaptation of the water sector to climate change into the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive. On a more operational level, this is done by mainstreaming climate change adaptation into the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBM Plan) and the Danube Flood Risk Management Plan. Full implementation of the DRBM Plan is an integral part of the EUSDR Action Plan, and the DRBM Plan is a main information source for prioritising and granting funding of measures in the Danube region.

The EUSDR is supporting the 2018 update of the ICPDR Adaptation Strategy through activities under the current work programme 2017-2019 of PA5.


Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period

Examples of projects funded by the Danube Programme 2014-2020 are reported below.

The JOINTISZA (Strengthening cooperation between river basin management planning and flood risk prevention to enhance the status of waters of the Tisza River Basin) project (2017-2019) aims at further improving the integration of water management and flood risk prevention planning for the next river basin management planning cycle, in line with the relevant EU legislation. The project involves the joint efforts of the five countries that share the Tisza River Basin, including associated partners from Serbia and Ukraine. The ICPDR Tisza Group as well as the EUSDR PA4 (Water quality) and PA5 (Environmental risks) coordinators are closely involved in activities. The Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention is associated strategic partner and acts as advisor on issues related to climate change adaptation within the project.

The DriDanube (Drought Risk in the Danube Region) project (2017-2019) aims at increasing the capacity of the Danube region to manage drought related risks by providing the following key outputs: a Drought User Service, which will enable more accurate and efficient drought monitoring and timely early warning; harmonized methodologies for risk and impact assessments; and improved decision-making though introducing the drought management cycle. DriDanube supports implementation activities of PA5 on environmental risks of EUSDR and it contributes to the Integrated Drought Management Programme - Central and Eastern Europe (IDMP CEE). This is a regional initiative supporting the governments of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine in the development of drought management policies and plans.