Croatia's presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) will focus on stronger regional development, synergy between macro-regional strategies and the Cohesion Policy, as well as promotion of cooperation with countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Marko Pavic said on Wednesday in Vukovar, where he presented the programme of Croatia's presidency of the Danube Strategy.
The Danube Strategy encompasses 14 countries of the Danube River basin and the programme of Croatia's presidency of the strategy provides a strategic framework for the EU's approach to the Danube region whose policies and investments have a direct impact on the lives of more than 20 million people.
The main theme of Croatia's presidency will be "The Danube Strategy - 10 Years Later" and the presidency will focus on identifying macro-regional cooperation, evaluating the results achieved thus far and determining the future direction of its development.
The Danube Strategy is one of the EU's four macro-regional strategies, adopted in 2011, and Croatia took over its presidency from Romania on 1 November, Minister Pavic underlined presenting the strategy, stressing that the strategy was connected with funds.
"So far Croatia has absorbed more than HRK 1.2 billion from the INTERREG programme for cross-border cooperation and of that amount, HRK 83 million comes from the Danube programme which follows the Danube Strategy," Pavic said, underlining the importance of planning future funding.
Croatia's chairmanship has three political objectives - strengthening regional development, creating a synergy between macro-regional strategies and the Cohesion Policy, as well as encouraging cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership, Pavic said.
He in particular made reference to the Slavonia-Baranja-Srijem regional development programme for which contracts worth almost HRK 11 billion have been signed and HRK 4 billion has been paid out.
"That project is the Croatian government's pride and based on signals from the European Commission, it is one of the few programmes that is chaired by the prime minister, which is believed to be one of the reasons of its success," Pavic underscored, adding that that programme would be especially presented through the Danube Strategy as a model for regions, notably less developed ones.
Croatia's chairmanship consists of five thematic priorities - cooperation between research institutions and economic stakeholders, environmental protection and sustainable economic development, inland waterways, tourism and smart villages, civil protection and regional and local government capacity building.
In a statement to the media after the presentation, Pavic underscored that chairing the Danube Strategy was an opportunity for Croatia's priorities to be reflected in future cohesion policies and the EU budget and that significant funds that can be secured for the Danube region be directed towards developing the five Slavonian counties.
Foreign and European Affairs Minister Goran Grlic Radman addressed the conference, stressing that Croatia joined the European family to protect stability and peace and prevent campaigns such as the Great Serbian aggression from ever happening again.
Radman said that aside from chairing the Danube Strategy Croatia was also chairing the Danube Commission, established in 1948, and that those presidencies would coincide with its presidency of the Council of the EU and that they would all end with the conclusion of the EU budget for the next seven years.
He added that as the national coordinator, his ministry would advocate the interests of all state institutions, civil society organisations, the academic community and other stakeholders and support a balanced and sustainable development and cross-border and macro-regional cooperation.
Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava recalled that Vukovar has the largest river port in Croatia and that the importance of the Danube for the town's development can be seen in the fact that 231 cruise ships with 32,000 tourists berthed in Vukovar in 2018. By November 15 this year there will have been 356 ships with more than 48,000 tourists that will have visited Vukovar, he said.
The main events of Croatia's presidency of the Danube Strategy were presented in Vukovar today, including the 30th anniversary of INTERREG programmes in June 2020 and the central event - the annual forum of the Danube Strategy that will be held in Zagreb, with more than 700 participants.
The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds today presented 170 agreements valued at about HRK 125 million of national and EU funds to beneficiaries from the five counties in Slavonia, aimed at further stimulating balanced development.