Danube Area

Region's countries

The Danube cooperation area stretches from the Black Forest (Germany) to the Black Sea (Romania-Ukraine-Moldova) covering the whole Danube river basin. The 2021-2027 cooperation area coincides with the previous programming period (2014-2020) and includes: 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. A map comparing the old and new borders can be seen here.

 

Policy framework

1.     Transnational cooperation programme

The Interreg Danube Region Programme 2021-2027 has not yet been finally adopted. Details of the programme will be presented upon approval.

The Interreg Danube Programme (DTP)  promotes economic, social, and territorial cohesion in the Danube Region through policy integration in selected fields. The 2014-2020 Programme focused 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 promoted:

  • 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 dealt 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 addressed 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 revised  EU Action Plan (2020) for the EUSDR has three main goals: to update and streamline the actions stated in the previous Action Plan of the region (2010); to provide more strategic guidance for the implementation of the EUSDR; to achieve a better compatibility of the EUSDR Action Plan with other programmes and funding instruments. The Plan identifies a portfolio of 85 actions for the 12 Priority Areas (PA) identified by 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 the highest relevance to adaptation. The EUSDR Action Plan encourages actions to: anticipate regional and local impacts of climate change for disaster risk reduction (Actions 2, 3, 4, 5, PA5); adapt to climate change impacts on water quality and quantity and to support smart uses of the water resource (Action 6, PA4); ecologically restore wetlands, especially in the Danube delta (Action 10, PA6).

Due to geographic overlaps with other macro-regions, also the European Strategy for Alpine Space (EUSALP) and the 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. The ICPDR works towards managing flood risks in sustainable ways. The Flood Protection Expert Group (FP EG) supports the implementation of the Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Protection in the Danube River Basin. It also supports the activities related to the implementation of the EU Floods Directive, such as the development of flood hazard and risk maps and the Danube River Basin Flood Risk Management Plan. In February 2021, the Member states’ Ministers, the Member of the European Commission, and the High Officials as those responsible for the implementation of the Danube River Protection Convention endorsed the 2022 Danube Declaration- A Vision for Integrated Water Management in Our Shared Basin, building a Sustainable Future in the Danube River Basin”. It welcomes the objectives and key messages of the 2018 ICPDR Climate Adaptation Strategy and reaffirms the effects of climate change (drought, water scarcity, extreme hydrological phenomena and other impacts) as a new significant water management issue for the Danube River Basin.

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 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). It aims to improve the quality of life, to strengthen local economies and communities, and to conserve the natural values and cultural heritage of the Carpathian area. At the Fifth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Carpathian Convention (COP5, 2017) an amendment to the Carpathian Convention was adopted to include a new Article on Climate Change (12bis). It requests Parties to pursue policies aiming at climate change mitigation and adaptation in all sectors relevant to the Convention. Consequently, the long term Vision 2030 for the Carpathian area was established ‘to strengthen collaborative efforts towards a climate-neutral path that delivers climate-resilient and sustainable development in the Carpathians’. This vision, aligned with the implementation of the Article 12bis of the Carpathian Convention, is detailed in seven strategic objectives and concrete targets. The Working Group on Climate Change supports the implementation of the Convention with special focus on this article. It works towards the long-term Vision 2030 and actively promotes pathways for climate proof development in relevant sectors.

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’, a Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change of the ICPDR was adopted in December 2012 and updated in 2018. The ICPDR Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change aims at offering guidance on the integration of climate change adaptation into ICPDR planning processes. It promotes multilateral and transboundary cooperation action in the context of climate change adaptation and serves as a reference for national policy makers and other officials. The Strategy provides the knowledge base and a strategic framework for integrating adaptation to climate change in the water sector into the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive. A comprehensive and easy-to-use toolbox of potential adaptation measures allows users to obtain detailed information on measures of interest, by filtering sectors, typologies of measures, time horizon and relevance for the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive.

Climate change adaptation is mainstreamed into the periodic updates of the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBM Plan) and the Danube Flood Risk Management Plan. The implementation of both plans is an integral part of the EUSDR Action Plan.

 

Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period.

Projects funded by the Danube Programme 2014-2020 that, at least indirectly, dealt with climate change challenges mainly refer to transnational water management, flood management and related risk management (e.g. JOINTISZA , DANUBE FLOODPLAIN, DAREFFORT projects). The DriDanube project  focussed on drought management.

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) brought partners from five countries sharing the waters of the Tisza River Basin together to work towards developing an updated Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan (ITRBMP) under the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive. Two pilot actions on urban hydrology management and drought management enabled actors developing new approaches to analyse and face climate change impacts in selected areas of the river basin. The ICPDR Tisza Group as well as the EUSDR PA4 (Water quality) and PA5 (Environmental risks) coordinators were closely involved in such activities. The Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention was an associated strategic partner and acted as a project advisor within JOINTISZA on issues related to climate change adaptation.

The DANUBE FLOODPLAIN project (Reducing the flood risk through floodplain restoration along the Danube River and tributaries, 2018-2020) aimed to improve transnational water management and flood risk prevention while maximizing benefits for biodiversity conservation. One of the main outcomes of the project was an online course about floodplain restoration. I was targeted to young and mid-level professionals working on water management and disaster risk reduction, and students. All project results were stored in the Danube Floodplain web GIS. It allows to visualise active, potential and former floodplains, their demand for restoration, their performance in case of peak discharge, ecologic and socioeconomic features etc.

DAREFFORT project (Danube River Basin Enhanced Flood Forecasting Cooperation, 2018-2021) aimed to create a flood forecasting system based on the cooperation among the Danube Basin countries. The project improved the evaluation of forecasting, a harmonised data exchange, and knowledge transfer. Through this project, partners cooperated in flood related data collection and processing, as well as on a joint road map for common flood forecasting, including the exchange of forecasting results.

The DriDanube (Drought Risk in the Danube Region) project (2017-2019) aimed at increasing the capacity of the Danube region to manage drought related risks. DriDanube project partners developed a Danube Drought Strategy. It aimed atbuilding the capacity of the Danube region to overcome common deficiencies in coping with drought, and thus helped to switch from reactive to proactive drought management approach. DriDanube project also developed several tools that support the implementation of proactive drought management in the countries of the Danube region. The Drought Watch is an interactive web platform to predict drought conditions and helps making appropriate decisions. DriDanube supported the implementation of PA5 of EUSDR on environmental risks and contributed to the Integrated Drought Management Programme - Central and Eastern Europe (IDMP CEE). This is a regional initiative supporting the development, assessment and application of drought risk management tools and policies in South-eastern Europe with the goal of improving drought preparedness and reducing drought impacts.