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EU sees 'crucial' need for Danube strategy

09 June 2010, 23:26 CET
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(MAMAIA) - The development of a Danube strategy is "crucial" to help eastern and central Europe recover from the economic downturn, the EU commissioner for regional policies said on Wednesday.

"It is absolutely crucial. It should make our economies stronger and it should address the basic factors limiting sustainable growth in these countries", said Johannes Hahn at the start of a Danube conference in Mamaia, eastern Romania.

Several countries bordering the Danube -- including Romania, Hungary and Serbia -- saw their economies shrink last year.

Delays in developing infrastructures such as railways are among the obstacles to economic developemnt facing central Europe, the Hungarian state secretary for foreign affairs Zsolt Nemeth said at the conference.

The conference closes a series of consultations this year to prepare an EU strategy for the Danube region.

This strategy -- which aims to improve cross-border transportation while protecting the environment and local heritage -- should be adopted next year by EU member states.

"The shipping potential through the Danube is not yet used. The possibilities are tremendous but today only three to six percent of the volume that could transit on the river is actually being transported that way", Hahn said at a press conference.

The EU strategy includes Danube countries such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as nearby Czech Republic and Slovenia.

Participating states from outside the European Union include Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro, Moldova and Ukraine.

The Danube originates in Germany and empties in the Black Sea via a delta in Romania and Ukraine.

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