ICPDR focus: Supporting the EU accession
EU water legislation prompts ICPDR development as the Danube region benefits from the obligations of EU member states to fulfil requirements while non-member states benefit from the ICPDR and its support towards meeting the goals of EU water legislation.
- Candidate country status does not give the right to join the EU automatically. The Commission examines the application in light of the accession criteria (Copenhagen criteria) and draws up an opinion, while the European Council decides whether to open accession negotiations with the candidate country.
- Since the June 2000 European Council of Feira, all EU partners in the Western Balkans involved in the Stabilisation and Association process which are not yet recognised as candidates are considered potential candidates for EU membership. Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate.
- Countries that have signed the treaty of accession obtain the status of 'acceding countries' and are expected to become full member states on the date set out in the treaty.
- Both candidate countries and potential candidates receive EU funding and support through a single instrument – the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance.
- The EU promotes regional cooperation with the aim of enhancing regional stability and security. Regional cooperation is an essential element of the Stabilisation and Association process.
The European Union has been one of the main drivers for river basin management planning in the Danube since 1991. The European Commission is also an original Contracting Party to the Danube River Protection Convention. As time has gone by, EU accession and the fulfilment of the EU’s environmental directives have become the main driving force for environmental change in the Danube Basin.
In December 2000, the EU adopted the Water Framework Directive (WFD) – a new and effective tool for water management, a holistic legal and policy framework, seen by many as the strongest water protection legislation in the world. In the same year, the ICPDR Heads of National Delegations agreed that implementing the WFD should become the highest priority for the ICPDR for the coming years. Ministers from all Danube countries gave their full commitment to the decision – including EU members, prospective members and non-members alike.
Benefits on both sides
ICPDR membership is a real boost for Danube countries. In addition to developing its programmes and activities, the ICPDR serves as a knowledge and capacity building tool for all Danube countries. However, the work of the ICPDR and its Expert Groups and Task Groups has also significantly strengthened the capacity of the Danube countries to continuously meet the EU’s accession and Acquis Communautaire challenges.
Moreover, political and economic incentives for environmental compliance resulting from the EU accession process actually fosters a speedier implementation of the Danube River Protection Convention’s objectives. As more Danube countries move closer to the EU the Danube becomes safer, cleaner and healthier because the countries’ expertise is growing and more lessons are being learned. As the 2014 ICPDR President Dražen Kurečić said in his address at the third EUSDR Annual Forum in Venna in June 2014, “Being a member of the ICPDR felt like being a member of the EU ten years ago already.”