Meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the BSEC Member States


On 24th November 2020 the General Director of the Secretariat of the Danube Commission, Manfred Seitz, took part in Meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the BSEC Member States – Connectivity and digitalization for a better future of transport, organized by Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation online in Istanbul.

See below his speech addressed during the meeting.

“Distinguished Mrs. Commissioner,

Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Danube Commission, I would like to express my highest appreciation to the organizers of the event – the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Communication of Romania.

The Danube waterway is an essential part of the European Union Rhine-Danube Core Network Corridor (RD Corridor) which connects Central and South-Eastern Europe. It comprises nine EU Member States and four Non-EU neighbouring countries all along the Main and Danube rivers to the Black Sea. Considerable infrastructure investments of around 14 billion Euro have already been made and further projects have been identified with investment needs of almost 100 billion Euro have been identified. (DG Move, 4th Work Plan of the Corridor Coordinator, May 2020). EU funds such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund and the newly created Resilience and Recovery Facility (RRF) provide a solid basis for major future infrastructure investments.

While the majority of EU funding in the Rhine-Danube corridor is concentrated on rail projects, significant progress has also been made in improving inland waterways. Projects that eliminate navigational bottlenecks, rehabilitate Danube locks such as at Djerdap (Iron Gate 1), Gabcikovo and the Black Sea Danube canal, as well as the corridor flagship project, “FAIRway Danube” pave the way for a reliable infrastructure and thus for cost-effective logistics chains using the Danube waterway and the river and seaports of the corridor. In addition, the roll-out of River Information Services (RIS) to all Danube states and their further development into a RIS corridor management (CEF Project RIS COMEX will enable Danube navigation to become a fully digitalized transport mode in the nearest future.

However, global warming is a fact and its complexity and extend demand targeted measures and broad international cooperation. The goals of the Paris Agreement and the Green Deal of the European Union, which stipulates that the EU Member States become climate neutral by 2050, can only be achieved in the Danube region by a significant shift of freight transport to the environmentally friendly Danube waterway.

However, it will be essential to connect the Danube Corridor with corridors defined in the EU’s Eastern partnership, with the Russian Federation and with Turkey. Furthermore, the so-called Middle Corridor, which forms a bridge to Central Asia, will be of importance for stronger economic relations between the connected regions.

The connection of the Danube river- and seaports in the southeastern and central European hinterland with the Black Sea region requires an expansion of the Black Sea Motorways of the Seas (MoS) services. Despite the difficult economic times in the COVID-19 pandemic situation, a new Ro-Ro service was successfully opened in spring between the port of Constanta and the port of Karasu ( Port of Karasu is the largest Ro-Ro port in the Black Sea and main hub for transport to Central Europe. This is just one recent example, and I am aware of other successful services that connect Ukrainian and Georgian ports, for example.

But we need more of these services which extend the Danube Corridor to neighbouring countries in the Black Sea, in order to develop the great transport potential. Therefore, these services and the necessary related infrastructure in ports as well as for the rail and road infrastructure in the hinterland must be developed on the basis of a comprehensive strategy worked out between private and public stakeholders in the region, taking into account the growing demand in the different freight segments.

I also would like to use the opportunity to mention the recently launched Interreg/DTP project DIONYSUS which was facilitated by the Secretariat of the Danube Commission. DIONYSUS will study the freight potentials of the Rhine-Danube corridor by expanding the use of the Danube waterway to new markets such as container traffic, renewable energy, Ro-Ro freight, etc. DIONYSUS will investigate the potentials by connecting the freight flows between Danube and Black Sea region, and will develop strategies and recommendations for a better connectivity of transport corridors in times of advanced digitalization needs of freight flows.

A stronger cooperation between the actors of the Danube transport sector and the maritime sector in the Black Sea will also be necessary to develop the infrastructure for the supply of alternative fuels in the Danube and Black Sea ports. Synergies between the transport modes and combined projects with the energy sector can create an economically attractive demand for alternative fuels and thus promote the supply of alternative fuels such as LNG/LBG, electricity and especially hydrogen. Consequently, alternative fueled vessels for new MoS services should be put into operation as a joint effort of public and private actors.

The EU is taking decisive steps to promote decarbonisation through legislative instruments. In the coming years, EU ports will have to adapt to this new framework, in particular with regard to the integration of the maritime sector into the EU ETS system, the sulphur ceilings for marine fuel and the “green” conditionality of EIB loans. This will provide a strong motivation for “green” project activities.

There is already a long-standing cooperation between the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Danube Commission based on the Memorandum of Understanding on Partnership in Sectoral Dialogue of 2010, but this cooperation has not yet led to concrete joint activities and projects. Based on the fact that six BSEC member states are also members of the Danube Commission, our organizations could play a major role in facilitating projects that exploit the economic synergies resulting from the connection of the Danube and Black Sea regions, where the Danube waterway provides a sustainable and cost-efficient transport backbone.”