A strong partnership for sustainable water management


ICPDR Danube Watch: From conflict to cooperation

Danube Watch 1 2007

A strong partnership for sustainable
water management

The 16 countries of the Danube Basin and Black Sea Region have adopted a new Declaration on the Enhancement of Cooperation during their first-ever High-Level Meeting in Bucharest, Romania on February 23.

Romanian President Traian Baˇsescu joined participants of the High-level Ministerial Meeting in underlining the political will to protect and secure the ecological value of the Danube River Basin and the Black Sea Region.

“On 1 January, the Black Sea became a European Union sea,” said Sulfina Barbu, Romanian Minister of Environment and Water Management. “On this date, my country joined the European Union and took over the ICPDR Presidency. As both a Danube and Black Sea country, Romania is proud to host this important meeting that is needed to increase cooperation among our countries.” Each of the 16 countries involved – Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine – is a party to one or both of the protection conventions already in existence, the Danube River Protection Convention and Black Sea Protection Convention.

The Declaration on the Enhancement of Cooperation calls for greater cooperation and efforts to protect the region, while recognising its environmental importance, the historical damage that it has suffered and recent signs of environmental recovery due to cooperative actions.

Working together to address challenges. The Declaration aims to help meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive by 2015. “The Declaration clearly states that Danube countries are aware of the huge financial resources needed to meet this EU directive through the implementation of a joint programme of measures,” said ICPDR Executive Secretary Philip Weller. “Increased coordination between all countries will be crucial to reducing costs.”

One focal point of the Declaration is the need to reduce nutrient pollution in the Black Sea. “We have been working for over 15 years to better understand the problem [of nutrient pollution]” said Ivan Zavadsky, UNDP/GEF Danube/Black Sea Regional Programme Director. “Now is the time for concerted action for basin-wide measures such as municipal wastewater treatment upgrades and introducing phosphate-free laundry detergents.” Peter Gammeltoft, Head of the Water and Marine Unit of the EU’s Directorate-General Environment, agrees that action must be taken. “The entire Danube Basin is a ‘sensitive area’ under the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. This means that EU Member States must use advanced urban wastewater treatment to reduce the nutrient pollution in the Black Sea”, said Gammeltoft.

Taking action against floods. The Declaration also includes a commitment to implement the ICPDR’s Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Protection in the Danube River Basin. The need for these efforts is evident, says Romanian President Traian Baˇsescu, who took part in the meeting. “The water tells us that we made big mistakes. In Romania, we have had snow for thousands of years … it has always meant good crops to us and so did the rain. But today rain often means flooding and causes widespread damage”, says Băsescu.

“Now that the Black Sea is a European Union sea, we are convinced that many of the successful projects carried out in the Danube Basin will be repeated through the concerted efforts of the Black Sea countries, Black Sea Commission, EU and UNDP/GEF,” said Ahmet Kideys, Executive Director of the Black Sea Commission.

Jasmine Bachmann works on public participation in the ICPDR Permanent Secretariat, and is the Executive Editor of Danube Watch.