Up to 100 Billion Euros
On his five-day tour last week through seven countries of the Danube region, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn was seeking to advance the implementation of the EU Danube Strategy. On June 24, 2011, the EU Commission formally adopted this strategy, but implementation of its projects has often been sluggish. Up to 100 billion Euros have been earmarked in the EU budget. However, often due to bureaucratic difficulties, not all funds are being retrieved, according to Brussels. And this is negative for the strategy's implementation. Former Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi has already warned against the strategy's failure. EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn is now demanding an intensification of the Danube region countries’ efforts in implementing the strategy and resolution in promoting the projects. Throughout his tour, numerous southeastern countries had organized popular events focusing on the Danube, for example the "Danube Day" in the Austrian town of Linz, or the "Danube Festival" near Belgrade.
Key Markets with Potential for Development
The EU Danube Strategy aims particularly at creating favorable conditions for the profitable economic exploitation of the region of Southeast Europe. German business circles have made extensive contributions to the preparation of the strategy. For example the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) in Ulm, has focused on supporting German companies' Southeast European expansion. In early 2010, the Chamber published a paper calling also for improvement of the thoroughfares along the Danube: "The competitiveness of the entire Danube region needs a well-developed infrastructure," small and medium-sized enterprises need stronger support and professional training needs better promotion. "Qualified professionals and executives are of high importance to each enterprise." One should not underestimate the Danubian countries' benefit for southern German industry, Ulm's IHK underlines. The Southeast European countries are "key markets" with "great development potentials" for the economy in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria.
Part of the Southern German Industrial Zone
German enterprises have been, in fact, among the major economic forces in Southeast Europe for years. Germany is the most important trade partner for most countries, stretching from Slovakia Hungary and Romania to Bulgaria and among the largest investors. Germany, for technical-financial reasons, often does not appear at the top of the list in statistics. The state-owned "Germany Trade and Invest" agency uses the example of Romania to explain why: "Because many German enterprises transact their Romanian investments through Austrian and Dutch subsidiaries, the actual value of direct investments (...) is much higher." Recently the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán summed up German economic predominance in his country saying: Hungary is part "of the southern German industrial zone," the southern German and Hungarian economies are "slowly but surely converging." In the meantime German companies have invested billions in Southeast Europe - since 1993, for example, Audi has invested some 4.7 billion Euros in Audi Hungaria alone. For years, they have also been reaping huge profits from Danube countries, in part through very advantageous strategic deals. For example in 2004, EADS' defense and security subsidiary, Cassidian, has received the contract for fortifying the Romanian border. The contract allocation had provoked protests, at the time, because it was granted without competitive bidding. For Cassidian, nevertheless, it was important, because in subsequent years, it has secured for itself a strong position in the branch of border fortifications and, for example, is now upgrading Qatar's and Saudi Arabia's with the appropriate fortification installations.
Competitiveness and Repression
Due to its predominating position in Southeast Europe, the German industry is profiting particularly from measures designed to promote the region's economy - and even more so, because German desires, as expressed in the IHK Ulm concept paper, were taken into account in the EU's Danube Strategy. One example is the "improvement of mobility," which would strengthen the "linkage of the Danube Basin to other European regions." Taking up the demand for the improvement of professional training in the southeastern European countries, it states that "investments" must be made "in people and skills" and the "development of a knowledge society" must be further promoted. According to the division of labor of the 14 countries participating in the implementation of the Danube Strategy, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg will focus particularly on the "promotion of business competitiveness" and Germany, on the sector of repression ("cooperation to promote security"). It is also important that not only EU member countries, but also non-member countries have committed themselves to implement the Danube Strategy. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and the Ukraine are at Brussel's direct disposal.
Culture and Business
The southern German city of Ulm provided the decisive impetus for the development of the Danube Strategy - with cultural activities. One of Ulm's major Danube protagonists recently commented on the background. "The great European and founding father of the European Community, Jean Monnet, is quoted as having said: 'If I had to do it over again, I would start with culture rather than with the economy'," reports the Danube activist Peter Langer - and continues, "in Ulm, we began with culture." To promote new Danube activities, the Ulm city council had staged a spectacular boat ride to Budapest in 1995. And with the first international Danube Festival in 1998, "new friendships and contacts that last to this day" have been forged. Based on such cultural and political preparatory work, the IHK-Ulm began its economic activities in 2001 with the establishment of the Danube Office in Ulm. With a bi-annual Danube Festival, the city of Ulm offers a broad popular basis for the concept of political and economic expansion into Southeast Europe. This year's ten-day major event will begin on Friday. It will include exhibitions, dragon boat rides and a youth camp. Only the sponsors Mercedes-Benz and the arms company Cassidian indicate the purpose of this cultural event - it is a "door opener"  for the political and economic expansion.