Budapest, Nitra, Orth an der Donau, Szentendre, Szolnok... My recent journey throughout the Danube Region was a great opportunity to meet with several projects partners and find out more about their expected results and driving forces for implementation of transnational cooperation projects. Along with a professional cameraman, Gergő from Eco Logical Films, we took the road, eager to learn more about EU funded projects in our region!
The first project we visited was DanubeParksConnected, in Austria. Georg Frank from the Donau-Auen National Park (Lead Partner in this project), together with 4 colleagues friendly welcomed us on the Danube riverbank. Guided by a professional rancher, we embarked on a rubber boat, with four intended sights: the WildIsland, -valuable breeding area for flagship species in the Danube Region, a Powerline crossing the Danube -causing thousands of bird collusions and electrocutions every year, Dry habitats -home to rare orchid species, and the Floodplain forest -thoroughly preserved from any human activities.
We also had the chance to interview Carl Manzano, Director of the Donau-Auen National Park and President of the DanubeParks network. He expressed his strong faith and incentives towards transnational cooperation and solidarity, fostering the sharing of ideas and assets, thus encouraging strategic work towards common goals.
Our next stop was Nitra, where we met Rosina Lohmeyer, István Lábodi and Zuzana Palkova, from Moveco.
We discussed the current linear economy, our production and consumption patterns -produce/use/dispose, and their harmful consequences on our societies. This project strives to make the circular economy an attractive and easily implementable solution for the future. Such a system would allow the products, after their use phase, to be easily recycled or reused, through intelligent product design and innovative business models.
Together with its 16 partners, Moveco seeks to tackle the current framework conditions and policy instruments. The aim is to ease the transition to a Circular Economy, fostering smart and sustainable growth and reducing disparities among the regions in the Danube area. Raising this issue could in turn lead to a further debate: what if we should call into question not only what / the way we consume, but also the fact to consume at all..?
Peter Szuppinger, from Green Danube, shared with us the challenges the Inland Waterway Transport is facing: this sector is expected to grow with about 80% until 2040 compared to 2010. Without policy intervention, in the year 2020 the average emission level of air pollutants of inland navigation vessels will in many cases be higher than that of trucks. The transport sector is recognized as a major contributor to emissions, therefore Green Danube aims to strengthen environmentally friendly, safe and balanced transport systems in the Danube River, making the region a better place to live!
For Gordana Kozhuharova and the Jointisza project, over-exploitation of water resources, water contamination, and a growing number of flood and droughts events call for a harmonized and integrated water management in countries that share river basins. While fostering active participation from stakeholders and citizens in the Tisza region, the project also seeks to further improve the integration of water management and flood risk prevention planning and actions for the next River Basin Management planning cycle.
A main reason one could give why the water quality of rivers should be protected and of prior importance is the wonderful mayflies blooming! Fortunately, the water quality of the Tisza has increased sufficiently for this marvelous natural phenomenon to return to the river after long decades of absence. In the hope of witnessing this unusual hence invaluable insects show, Gergő and I hit the road down to Szolnok. And even though we did not see the whole blooming, we were lucky enough to watch some mayflies breeding over the Tisza!
At last, but not least, we went to the Otto Herman Institute in Budapest, and interviewed Hubert Siegel, from Camaro-D. We held lively discussions about the importance of transnational cooperation towards managing the land use impacts on the water regime in the Danube. Benefiting from a harmonized land use management, will enable water resources protection and flood prevention to be better taken into account.
On the 29th of June, the project DANUrB celebrated the Danube river through various activities and events. The bridge, built to link the twin-cities of Štúrovo and Esztergom, was blown up by the retreating German army in 1944. Its gloomy remains continued to flow out into the Danube until 2001, when the two countries finally got round to rebuilding it, thanks to European investment.
The two cities offered last week a programme that showcased events such as cooking traditional fish soup - halászlé, concerts, photo exhibition or an exhibition presenting the work of four generations of the Feiglers family - architects who have been active during the 19th century on both banks of the Danube River. In the context of the project which aims to create a "Cultural promenade" - a regional network of significant Danube cultural heritage - students presented their studio works linked to sites along the river in four countries including diploma designs in a virtual reality setting.
Thanks to the DANUrB team, Štúrovo in Slovakia and Esztergom in Hungary separated by the Danube but linked by a bridge and a strong common history, were brought together to celebrate this significant and majestic natural bond.
On the 6th of July, we met Máté Szalók, project manager in both AgriGo4Cities and DRIM. The two projects seek to improve institutional capacities to tackle socio-economic exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups and to stimulate sustainable development in the Danube region.
- AgriGo4Cities aims indeed at overcoming the lack of participatory approach into decision-making processes. Having identified the gap between citizens and public authorities, the project could do nothing but conclude that the growing social and economic inequalities are reflected in reduced quality of urban life. It therefore seeks to employ Participatory Urban and Peri-urban agriculture as a powerful and emerging method to improve public institutional capacities, thus developing innovative methodology of participatory planning to be integrated into decision-making processes.
- With regard to DRIM, this project is dealing with demographic, labour market and migration challenges the Danube region is now facing. With the objective to enhance the capacity of public institutions for promoting migrants’ economic integration -meaning fair access to employment, work and skills enhancement, DRIM will develop a tool that will allow effective information sharing and help local and national authorities in supporting migrants' economic integration.
When it comes to tackle socio-economic exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as Roma communities, the project RARE is doing a wonderful work. For our very last interview, we met with Szilvia Suri, in Gyulaj to discuss the situation of Roma in Hungary. They are indeed the largest ethnic minority in the European Union and among the most deprived, facing social exclusion, discrimination and unequal access to employment, education, housing and health. Most of the estimated 5,2 M Roma people living in the Danube Region today still face intolerance, discrimination and exclusion from the labour market. Therefore, RARE aims to enhance the capacities of and cooperation among actors having a stake in the labour market participation of the Roma in order to better exploit their economic potential.
In Gyulaj (Hungary) the Mayor together with the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service established a "factory" that employs Roma from the village, and thanks to this initiative launched some years ago, the unemployment rate has significantly decreased. Not only they grow their own fruits and vegetables in a large garden, but Roma are also active in the food processing side, where they make jams, pickles and other delights. The final products are then sold in local shops, are used at the school canteen of the village. RARE project would like to highlight this powerful example of effective social and labour market inclusion and develop convincing economic argumentation for further such interventions.
The videos about the above-mentioned projects will be relased one by one on this page and on our social media, so stay tuned for updates!
Manon, Interreg Reporter in the Danube Transnational Programme