EU Strategy for the Danube Region: Conference of Speakers of Parliament (PK0274/03/19/2024)

Vienna (PK) – This year Austria will host the 9th Conference of the Parliament of the European Union Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), which will take place in the Chamber from 18 to 19 March. The EUSDR, established in 2011 on an Austrian-Romanian initiative, is one of the four macro-regions of the European Union. It includes nine EU member states and five EU candidate countries. The strategy aims to solve cross-border problems in the Danube region through increased cooperation. Today's event is aimed at reinforcing the importance of the parliamentary dimension and making better use of its potential. In particular, high-level parliamentary representatives of Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Austria addressed the topics “Security in the Danube Region”, “Building Democracy”. “And the Danube region apart from cultural, natural and scientific areas.

Austria will chair the EUSDR from November 2023 until the end of 2024. The priorities of the chairmanship are stability and security, innovation, skills training and economic opportunities, as well as improving the river ecosystem, greening water management and managing the green transition, with a European perspective for the entire Danube region.

Sobotka: Cooperation in the Danube region will promote EU enlargement

The EU strategy for the Danube region affects around 115 million people, which corresponds to a quarter of the EU population, National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka emphasized in his opening remarks. The format has taken on new meaning, especially in the context of the geopolitical changes that have taken place in the last few years. Regarding the main topic of “security in the Danube region”, Sobotka said that Ukraine is defending European values ​​by defending itself against a Russian war of aggression. Other general security aspects include measures against human, drug and arms trafficking and organized crime such as money laundering. In the field of democratic education, the President of the National Council said he was proud to see the successful model of the Austrian Parliament's democracy workshop being implemented in other countries. Sobotka also saw opportunities for cultural identity in individual countries in the great diversity of cultural and natural areas of the Danube region.

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Cole: Consider more of a women's perspective in collaboration

The Danube region is not only the largest and most diverse of the EU's four macro-regional strategies, but also covers a geostrategically important area, Federal Council President Markit Kohl said in his opening speech. As the Danube Region Strategy includes EU Member States and EU Accession Candidates, it represents a significant contribution to EU enlargement and neighborhood policy. Cross-border cooperation is crucial for promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region. Cole argued that women's perspectives, experiences and ideas should be given more attention within the framework of the Danube Regional Strategy. “Especially in challenging times, it is important for women to be at the forefront of decision-making,” the state chamber president said.

Tchakarova: Different security threats require collective action

The first of three sessions was on security in the Danube region. The Danube region has always been “a bridge between East and West” and a parameter reflecting geopolitical tensions and transformation processes, Velina Sakharova from the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy emphasized in her keynote address. Today there are various security threats that require collective action. Sakharova cited, for example, the bombing of Russia's Danube ports, which are important for Ukrainian food exports, threats from organized crime and international migration. EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, pushed by the EUSDR, is a long-term strategic decision to strengthen security in the region. In her conclusions, Sakharova called for strengthening regional cooperation and intelligence sharing, further intensifying EU integration, and investments in youth education and developing resilient democracies.

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Stefanchuk: Ukraine makes a fundamental contribution to security in the Danube region

Ukraine, now in the third year of its struggle for freedom and independence, is making a fundamental contribution to the security of the Danube region, said Ruslan Stepanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, in the ensuing debate. Stefanchuk called on partners to ensure adequate support at all levels for Ukraine to “defeat Russia on the battlefield”.

The Russian threat also affects the Republic of Moldova, which is why it is more important than ever to advance European integration, emphasized the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Igor Grosu. They are committed to the goals of the EUSDR, which is why Grosz asked partner countries to continue to support the Republic of Moldova along this path.

According to the Deputy Speaker of the Slovak Parliament, Peter Žiga, Slovakia is a strong partner for EU enlargement. Ziga explained that he expects Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and the Western Balkan countries to be treated equally with a merit-based approach. The strategic partnership between the EU and NATO is essential to Europe's security.

European security is inextricably linked to Ukraine, which is why it still needs military and political support, emphasized the speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Marketa Pekarova Adamova. Other strategic critical points for security are the progressing EU integration, the functioning of the Schengen area and the fight against international crime.

The Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament, Rosen Zhelyaskov, said migration challenges can only be solved through joint efforts. Bulgaria has made great efforts to protect its external borders. As for Ukraine, Zhelyazkov spoke in favor of supporting it as long as necessary.

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Wolfgang Reinhart, deputy speaker of the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, emphasized that Germany is also on Ukraine's side as the second-largest supporter after the United States. When it comes to EU enlargement, parliaments must focus “right now” to ensure it succeeds. Reinhardt said that in principle, cross-border security “should be a priority”, but one should not forget about issues such as renewable energies.

The new challenges do not recognize national borders, said Istvan Jakab, the deputy speaker of the Hungarian parliament. In the area of ​​energy security, Hungary has sought to diversify its energy infrastructure since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Also, action has been taken against organized crime.

For Croatian parliamentarian Zdravka Bušicic, supporting Ukraine should be a priority. With its war experience, Croatia helps in demining and investigating war crimes. (Continuation of the Danube Regional Conference) med/sue

Note: Photos of the Danube Regional Conference and a review of past events can be found on the Parliament's web portal.

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