Conclusions of the 9th edition of the EUSDR Annual Forum

The exceptional 9th edition of the EUSDR Annual Forum was organised by the EUSDR Croatian Presidency together with the European Commission, the Danube Transnational Programme and the Danube Strategy Point on 22nd October 2020 in Zagreb. For the realisation of this year's edition, the online meeting platform Cisco Webex was used together with the Vimeo live-stream platform, supported by a team of eight technicians. 
The event attracted 735 registered participants, among which more than 50 officials of the Danube Region attended the various sessions of the Forum. 
The Annual Forum took place under the headline "Harmonious and sustainable development" and focused on the ecological, economic and social aspects of sustainable regional development in the Danube Region in three different thematic panels (see sections below). 
Funding for the Danube Region Strategy and its actions was another central topic on the agenda: In this context, Interreg Danube Transnational Programme presented its new priorities for the period 2021-2027 and EUSDR National Coordinators discussed with managing authorities (MA) from the Danube Region how to better coordinate and embed the Strategy's actions and strategic topics with and into funding sources of the EU mainstream, operational, national and regional programmes. 
Another important part of the Forum was the Joint meeting of ministers responsible for the EUSDR. As a result of the meeting, a Joint Statement for the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region was adopted. In this statement the Ministers express their full support for the EUSDR, the revised EUSDR Action Plan, the new endorsed Governance Architecture Paper, the EUSDR Embedding process into EU programmes and the consideration of the EU Green Deal within the Danube Region Strategy. 
 
Information on the 7th Danube Participation Day, held back-to-back with the Annual Forum, is available here. 
 
 
High-ranking support for the Danube Region Strategy! 
 
 
 
 
Nataša Tramišak, Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds of the Republic of Croatia: "Practices in the current programming period have shown that a better coordination within the EUSDR is crucial and may require going beyond traditional administrative boundaries. Proposed novelties in the Multiannual Financial Framework for the post-2020 period can be implemented only in a manner which will contribute to a more efficient management of EU funds, more effective delivery of set priorities as well as to good governance as a whole. [...] 
Words of support have to be translated into action, such as translating political support into adequate resources, enabling full time staff to coordinate and allowing the best experts to be engaged." Elisa Ferreira, EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms: "Looking at ten years of cooperation in the Danube Region, I believe the Danube Region Strategy can be proud of the goals achieved. [...] During the next ten years of the Strategy we 

will see many challenges: the recovery from COVID and the greening of the region from sustainable mobility to biodiversity. The challenge is to tackle these objectives holistically for the benefit of everyone in the Danube Region. The goal lies before us - a prosperous, a green, a connected Danube Region. Let's work together for the future. It is worth it!" 
Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia: "The EUSDR has strengthened the region considerably in the past ten years, which is why Croatia is committed to continue cooperation within the EUSDR as well as within other MRS. [...] By embedding the European Green Deal, fostering the digital transformation and civil society participation the Danube Region Strategy is well on its way!" 
 
 
 
The joint plenary session underlined... 
 
 
... the complementarities of the Danube Region Strategy and the European Green Deal: Macro-regional strategies (MRS) can be a platform for the promotion of the European Green Deal (EGD), especially through their cross-sectoral approach, multi-level governance and diverse stakeholder involvement. 
... the relevance of the quintuple helix concept, considering the concept of social ecology and environmental protection as integral parts of the collaboration between government, academia, industry and civil society.  
... the potential of thematic Smart Specialisation platforms (e.g. in the fields of agri-food, industrial modernisation, energy) to create transnational value chains. 
... the importance of bringing non-EU stakeholders closer to the Union and the necessity of embedding MRS into the post 2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). 
Learn more about this session in our comprehensive report on the EUSDR Annual Forum 2020! 
 
 
Ecosystem services & green corridors for sustainable development 
 
 
 
 
Within the thematic session "Ecological perspective of sustainable development", DG ENVIRONMENT presented the main conclusions and outcomes of the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services: An EU ecosystem assessment, published on 21st October 2020. The report represents an analysis of trends in pressures, conditions and services of marine, freshwater and land ecosystems of the EU+UK using 2010 as baseline year. 
The session also highlighted the importance of transnational cooperation for ecological connectivity in terrestrial ecosystems through the development of green infrastructure and green corridors. In the context of preserving migration corridors for sturgeons, the negative impact of land use change, river navigation, water pollution and flood protection measures was discussed. 
All presentations for this session are available here. 
Learn more about this session in our comprehensive report on the EUSDR Annual Forum 2020! 
 
 

Digitalisation & circular economy for sustainable development 
 
 
 
 
Within the thematic session "Economic perspective of sustainable development", EUSDR Priority Area Coordinators Nirvana Kapitan Butković and Judit Schrick-Szenczi (EUSDR PAC 8, Croatia and Baden-Württemberg, Germany) pointed out the main trending elements for economic development in the European Union: Digitalisation and circular economy are seen as key enablers for reaching the objectives of the European Green Deal and will consequently also be supported in the Danube Region. 
 
Furthermore, the impact of COVID-19 measures on female entrepreneurs and measures how to raise their competitiveness in the Danube Region were illustrated - these are the results of a recent study by HETFA Research Institute (HU). 
Learn more about this session in our comprehensive report on the EUSDR Annual Forum 2020! 
 
 
Vocational education & digital skills for sustainable development 
 
 
 
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Within the thematic session "Social perspective of sustainable development", Ulrike Damyanovic from the European Training Foundation pointed out the importance of directly linking vocational education and training with activities of companies and introducing potential new employees to companies as soon as possible to yield the benefits of vocational education and training on the labour market. Stephan Waba from the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research in Austria introduced pedagogical concepts for the development of digital skills to support a green and digital transition. 
Further topics included practical aspects of embedding the Danube Region Strategy in the European Social Fund and disaster risk reduction through a strengthened resilience of communities in the Danube Region. 
Learn more about this session in our comprehensive report on the EUSDR Annual Forum 2020! 
 
 
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