Historical and cultural heritage in focus of Danube Region Forum

The Danubian countries have united around 11 priorities and have agreed that they should set themselves clear cohesion goals during the next programming period

Photo: BTA Commissioner Corina Cretu (L) and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva.

Historical and cultural heritage is high on the agenda of the 7th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, underway in Sofia on Thursday and Friday, and was the main highlight of an informal tourism ministers' meeting of the Danubian countries, held in the Bulgarian capital earlier on Thursday, European Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu told a news conference in Sofia.

Cretu said 112 million people live in the Danube region, accounting for one-fifth of the population of the European Union. The EU Strategy for the Danube Region, launched by 14 countries in 2010, is a manifestation of European cooperation, she recalled.

The Commissioner noted that 2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage and this is reflected in cooperation within the EU and in the proceedings of the current Danube region forum in Sofia, which is also discussing new technologies, security, mobility and transport. Cretu believes that the Danube region has a huge potential. Tourism can bring great economic benefits for the region, she said, adding that some shortcomings in the sector, such as the problem with insecure seasonal jobs, should be addressed. She called for a policy to raise the quality of employment by funding various projects and supporting the EU Strategy for the Danube Region.

Bulgaria will receive €2.2m in aid from the EU to mitigate the effects of last year's floods in the coastal city of Burgas, the Commissioner said.

Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva stressed that 2018 is the most important year for Bulgaria since it joined the EU in 2007 because the country had its first Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2018 and is the current holder of the rotating Presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. During both of these presidencies, Bulgaria's goal has been to achieve stability, prosperity, security and cohesion, Zaharieva said. According to her, the Danubian countries have united around 11 priorities and have agreed that they should set themselves clear cohesion goals during the next programming period. A budget of €262m will be set aside for the purpose.

Regional Development and Public Works Minister Petya Avramova called for supplementary and flexible forms of funding for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region after 2020.

Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova said Thursday's informal meeting adopted a declaration of the Danube region ministers in charge of tourism and culture, urging that the region should be advertised through joint initiatives in the field of cultural and historical heritage and joint projects highlighting traditions, festivals and wine-making.

The 7th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region is the most important closing event of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Strategy. It is discussing tourism as a driver of economic growth and cohesion.

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