Bottling the spirit of Danube cooperation
In the most international river basin in the world, Danube leaders recognise
that they hold the future of the waters of the basin in their hands.
As part of a longstanding ICPDR tradition, Peter J. Kalas of the Czech Republic (right) presents a bottle of Danube Water to Peter Gammeltoft of the European Union (left).
The ICPDR is a worldwide model for cooperation in river basin management, and the role of the Danube countries as guardians of the precious resources of the river basin is always at the heart of the ICPDR’s work – as the waters of the Danube are literally passed on from one presidency country to the next.
Each president steers the ICPDR, acting as its captain for the year, while the expert groups – panels of specialists from the ICPDR’s contracting parties and its observers – function as the crew, undertaking much of the work of the ICPDR. The technical secretariat supports the president during his or her mandate.
1999 Wolfgang Stalzer, Austria
2000 Emil Marinov, Bulgaria
2001 Stanko Nick, Croatia
2002 Martina Motlova, Czech Republic
2003 Fritz Holzwarth, Germany
2004 Cathrine Day, European Union
2005 István Õri, Hungary
2006 Constantin Mihailescu, Moldova
2007 Lucia Ana Varga, Romania
2008 Saša Dragin, Serbia
2009 Olga Sršnová, Norbert Halmo, Slovakia
2010 Mitja Bricelj, Slovenia
2011 Mykola Melenevskyi, Ukraine
2012 Wolfgang Stalzer, Austria
2013 Ermina Salkičević-Dizdarević, Bosnia and Herzegovina
2014 Atanas Kostadinov, Vladimir Dontchev, Emilia Kraeva, Bulgaria
2015 Dražen Kurečić, Croatia
2016 Peter J. Kalas, Czech Republic
2017 Peter Gammeltoft , European Union
However, the president provides visibility to his or her country during the year and leaves a mark on the work of the ICPDR by bringing a special focus on several issues. The Presidency is a symbolic torch reminding the ICPDR community of the original objective of the Danube River Basin Protection Convention – to improve the water quality in the basin for the countries which are the owners of the convention.
A tradition of responsibility
The presidency is held for one year, and passed from one contracting party to the next in alphabetical order, in English. The delegation representing the next contracting party nominates its representative to become President of the ICPDR. The President as a rule does not take the floor on behalf of that delegation within the meetings of the ICPDR.
The transition is made in a ceremony held in January hosted by the outgoing president, at that country’s embassy in Vienna. At the ceremony, the outgoing president presents the new president with a bottle of Danube water. At once a reminder of the custodial role of the Danube countries to protect the previous resources of the Danube and its tributaries, the handover also symbolises the passing of the baton of responsibility, reinforcing the shared commitment each country has made to the ICPDR.
Beginning and ending with the Danube
The handover tradition began in 2000, and every year Igor Liska, ICPDR Technical Expert for Water Quality at the ICPDR Secretariat, has collected and sampled water for the ceremony.
While the bottle itself is passed to each president, a new water sample is collected each year from the same location at the Danube River at km 1930 at the Reichsbrücke (Imperial Bridge) in Vienna.
This enduring tradition gives a special continuity to the ICPDR as Danube cooperation and the integrated work of the ICPDR lives on, now and for the future.
Snapshot from the 2016 ICPDR Presidency
The ICPDR depends on the active role of the countries. When Peter J. Kalas took over the presidency for the Czech Republic, he pledged to visit as many of the contracting parties as possible. During his Presidency, Kalas went to Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia, and his last visit in his function as ICPDR President was to Serbia.
In Serbia, Kalas met ministry officials and local experts; “It is my duty and honour as ICPDR President to convey the messages from the countries back to the Secretariat and the expert groups."
Reflecting on his visit to Serbia, during which the Danube was covered by heavy snow, he said:
“The mighty Danube River still reveals its surprises from time to time – not only the extremes of floods and droughts, but also sudden episodes of ice belong to its naturally related arsenal.”