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The Danube river: its future as a European transportation route

by Michele Tempera

Abstract

The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe, flowing from southern Germany to the Romanian coast of the Black Sea. In addition to its role in Europe’s history, it is also an important commercial shipping route as well as a great natural ecosystem, fundamental for the ecological balance of the European continent. For the EU the issue is how to appropriately develop the river’s strengths in light of steadily increasing traffic on this waterway. Will it be possible without spoiling its ecological richness and the life of people who rely on it?
Transportation along the Danube is the most important aspect in the context mentioned above. There are fourteen countries directly and indirectly affected by the Danube in terms of transport: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. Moreover, as mentioned before, the entire European Union is involved in exploiting the river as a waterway, given its driving force for commerce and communication.
The river’s geographical route is particularly significant in terms of the EU’s cohesion and trans-border policies being promoted among the EU’s eastern members. At the same time the Danube region is also part of the neighbourhood policy promoted by the European Commission and directed towards the western Balkans and those east European countries that are not yet part of the EU. Part of the funds allocated for these tasks will be used in the context of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, enabling the river once again to become an element of union and possibly a useful development tool for the territories it crosses as well as for the whole continent.
All the countries affected by developments in the Danube river basin and especially those through which the river directly passes, agree on the strategy to follow in the upcoming years. The need for systematic collaboration on all levels by the Danube coastal nations is frequently seen as a major challenge, given the possibility (and sometime readiness) to place their own interests ahead of common ones. Thus developing and sharing coordinated navigation and maintenance policies, plus greater transfer of know-how between coastal countries and their waterway management agencies, will be of great relevance for achieving a feasible, efficient and sustainable transportation system on the Danube.
According to EU strategy, this kind of approach should be taken when dealing with the construction or enlargement of Danube ports. Currently there are approximately forty sizable ports along the river; these are expected to be enhanced and other ones are in the planning stages. Port development will mean establishing the starting points for a multimodal transport network comprising railways as well, with the goal of shaping a more rational and efficient regional logistics system.

Original title: The Danube river: its future as a European transportation route

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