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25. 2. 2010 17:50

Hungary - The Danube Summit adopted an action plan called “Budapest Declaration” - bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Summi

25.2. 2010

On Hungary’s initiative the Danube Summit was organised in Budapest on February 25, 2010, with the participation of eight European Union Member States and six other countries invited by the EU Commission. The Commission itself was represented by Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for Regional Policy. Envoys of two south German and four Austrian states also attended the meeting.

Hungary initiated the Summit held at prime ministerial level in order to take a central role in international efforts aimed at orchestrating the Danube Region Strategy.

The highlight of the Summit was the adoption of the so-called Budapest Declaration, signed by representatives of the governments of Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Non-EU member states of the Danube Region Strategy also joined the declaration, namely Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine. The declaration was based on a European Council decision of June 2009, instructing the European Commission to prepare the EU’s Danube Region Strategy before the end of 2010.

The common aim of the signatories of the Budapest Declaration is to strengthen cooperation and understanding between the countries and citizens of the Danube region by drafting the EU Danube Strategy with the goal of integrating markets within a Union framework and through cross-border, region-to-region and international cooperation. The Strategy draws on joint approaches, synergies and the more efficient use of existing EU instruments and funds, as well as other resources and financial means. The Danube Strategy’s key elements are: energy; protection of the environment and nature; transport and infrastructure; training and innovation; art and culture; sustainable economic and tourism-related activities; food safety; research and development; migration; governance; sports; education; labour affairs; health and welfare issues.

The parties to the Budapest Declaration committed themselves to establish an attractive, safe and prosperous Danube Region. They pledged to draw in all interested parties into preparing the Strategy while acting in unison to resolve common challenges facing the region. These challenges include environment protection, nature, transport infrastructure (particularly river navigation and railways), energy security, rural development, tourism, sports, good governance, food safety, migration, population as well as climate change; and al these could take on a global character.

The signatories gave the assessment that rational and careful use of natural resources while protecting human health, nature and the environment is desirable in respect of the Danube basin. They pledged support to the European Commission for working out a draft Strategy, which incorporates proposals from Member States. They make all necessary efforts so that the Commission’s proposal on the EU Danube Region Strategy and the relevant Action Plan for its implementation are ready before the end of 2010 allowing their adoption by the European Council in the first half of 2011.

On the sidelines of the Summit, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Balázs held talks with European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, the Czech minister of European Affairs as well as with his Bulgarian, Romanian and Bosnian colleagues.

European Commissioner Johannes Hahn spoke with appreciation of the events initiated by Hungary - the Visegrad Group Energy Summit and the Danube Summit - and assured them of his support. He expressed hope that the Danube Region Strategy would be approved under the Hungarian EU presidency in the first half of 2011. Mr Balázs and Mr Hahn discussed the future of the EU regional policy, which is soon to appear on the agenda on two occasions: first, during the review of the financial perspective and second, in the course of drafting the next EU budget. They examined the possibilities for regrouping available EU resources because neither new EU institutions nor new EU instrumens are envisaged in financing of the Danube Strategy as it was the case with the Baltic Strategy, too.

Mr Balázs and Juraj Chmiel, the Czech Minister of European Affairs, reviewed the institutional changes following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech politician expressed doubt about the April deadline for setting up the European External Action Service. Mr Chmiel congratulated Hungary for its organisation of the Energy Security Summit and the expanded V4 meeting of foreign ministers on Eastern Partnership to take place on March 2. He expessed satisfaction that both energy and Eastern Partnership have a central role in both the present Spain-Belgium-Hungary trio presidency and in the Hungarian one in early 2011.

Mr Balázs and the new Bulgarian Foreign Minister, Nikolai Mladenov, were in agreement that the two countries’ interests were identical in many areas, and steps towards even greater harmonisation, such as supporting the integration of the southeastern-European region—one of the priorities of the Bulgarian government—would be necessary. In this regard, the head of Hungarian diplomacy stressed the importance of a regional approach without skirting the fact that the basis of the assessment is individual merit. Among the elements of identical interests between Hungary and Bulgaria, they noted the Eastern Partnership. Mr Balázs gave a briefing on the expanded Visegrad foreign ministerial meeting on March 2, which will deal with this issue. As regards the February 24 Budapest Energy Summit, the two sides were in agreement that energy security, as well as the diversification of sources—especially given Bulgaria’s 100% dependence on external sources—is of primary importance. They delineated common interests such as the EU competition strategy for the next ten years, the so-called “EU 2020” programme and cohesion policy.

Mr Balázs and Teodor Bacoschi, the Romanian Foreign Minister agreed on further cooperation. At their consultation, the guest welcomed the Spain-Belgium-Hungary trio presidency programme, which contains the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen zone in 2011. At the same time, Mr Bacoschi welcomed Hungarian initiatives on energy security, the Danube Strategy and the Eastern Partnership. In his view the two countries could represent their interests together in these areas. They agreed on the importance of integrating the Roma community; in this regard, the Hungarian foreign minister gave a briefing on the Roma strategy in the framework of the Visegrad Group. Among regional initiatives, Mr Balázs emphasised Hungarian-Romanian-Serbian cooperation.

The head of Hungarian diplomacy assured Ms Ana Trišić-Babić, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, of Hungary’s continued and steadfast support for the country’s path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Mr Balázs drew attention to the importance of the bilateral Integration Action Plan in whose framework Hungarian experts are sharing their experiences. The Hungarian Foreign Minister believes there is a good possibility before the upcoming 2010 elections that Bosnia-Herzegovina advances in some integration criteria; the first could be the technical conditions required for EU visa liberalisation. Ms Trišić-Babić gave an account of her country's favourable experiences having been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The two politicians exchanged views on the conference on the Western Balkans to be held in Sarajevo in May. This meeting is being organised by the present EU presidency to strike a balance since the 1999 Zagreb Summit which had set the Euro-atlantic integration as the long-term goal of the region.

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