From the Black Forest to the Black Sea

ULM | | jugoslawien

ULM (Own report) - At a "Danube Summit," beginning Wednesday in Ulm, German authorities will be seeking to entrench German hegemony over Southeast Europe. With the participation of several heads of states, the summit will round off preparations for an alliance of all Danube riparian countries. The "Council of the Danube Cities and Regions", is to be established in June with the aim of "reorganizing the European Danube regions" into an integrated economic realm, a prerequisite for obtaining access to the largest possible share of EU subventions, according to German business circles. German business already holds an unrivalled position along the Danube and will particularly profit from these initiatives and subventions. The Danube Council will have its seat in Ulm. The Southeast expansion of German businesses is already under the responsibility of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Ulm. The current Danube projects are in line with an old tradition of Berlin's hegemonic policies that considered Southeast Europe to be the centerpiece of German expansion.

Danube Summit

With the "Ulm Summit" starting on Wednesday, the government of Baden-Wuerttemberg is continuing its efforts to link the riparian countries of the Danube in the fields of politics, economy and culture. The summit is the hub of a series of meetings to be held this year in four Danube cities (Vienna, Ulm, Budapest and Belgrade) aimed at enhancing cooperation in the Danube area. The summit will be attended by several representatives of countries along the Danube, including the vice prime ministers of Slovakia, Serbia and Bulgaria as well as the foreign minister of Hungary.[1] The summit will round off preparations for the foundation of a permanent "Council of the Danube Cities and Regions", which will represent the interests of the Danube region at the European level. In June, the founding conference will be held in Budapest.

Danube Office

The city of Ulm in Baden-Wuerttemberg has become the centre of German activities for the area of the Danube. In 2001, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Ulm, which is responsible for business contacts in Southeast Europe, established a "Competence Centre for Southeast Europe". And in 2002, it established along with the regional government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the "Danube Office". The "Danube Office" is located in Ulm and sees itself as the "coordinator and driving force behind Baden-Wuerttemberg's Southeast European activities".[2] In 2008, the Danube Office also became the seat of the European Danube Academy, serving as a platform for political, cultural and scientific cooperation for the Danube region. According to the spokesperson for the Danube Office, Ulm could become the centre of the "overall Danube region". "We are in a better position for the allocation of a European liaison office than Linz, Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade."[3]

Danube Council

According of German plans, Ulm is to become the seat of the "Council of the Danube Cities and Regions". The establishment of this Council has also been demanded in the "Declaration of Ulm", adopted in July 2008 during the International Danube Festival, which takes place every two years in Ulm. The declaration that was signed by the cities of Ulm, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Vukovar, Novi Sad and Belgrade, among others, is linking Southeast European policy to aspects of traditional German "regional planning".[4] The objective is to create a new European "axis from the Black Forest to the Black Sea", described as a common "realm of development" along the Danube.[5] According to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Ulm, the project to harmonize and "reorganize" the region is aimed at the "creation of a geographical and economic identity of the Danube region", a region, in which German business is holding an unrivalled position. Germany is the most important economic partner for most of the riparian countries of the Danube.[6]

Danube Strategy

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Ulm considers it a great success that the EU Commissioner, Danuta Huebner, has agreed to the development of a special Danube strategy for the EU. "Now it is a question of convincing the EU member states - particularly those along the Danube,"[7] explains the EU minister of Baden Wuerttemberg. The Danube region should be recognized as quickly as possible as the third "transnational area" of European cooperation - alongside the "Baltic region" and the "Mediterranean". These plans are aimed particularly at acquiring EU subventions. At the latest, when the financial planning for the next budgetary period beginning 2014 is decided, Ulm's "Danube Region" will be in competition with the "Mediterranean Union" created on the initiative of France.

Model Region

Ulm's Chamber of Industry and Commerce has declared Serbia's Vojvodina province a "Model Region" for the "Danube Area". This procedure has a particular significance, because several of the ethnic minorities in the Vojvodina are demanding special rights (autonomy) - with the support of front organizations of German foreign policy.[8] From time to time, there is even talk of Vojvodina seceding from the Serbian nation. In Ulm, close contacts are groomed to the president of the Vojvodina province. Just last march, he announced his conviction that the "partners" in Ulm and Baden Wuerttemberg would particularly direct their economic potential toward Vojvodina and seek joint projects [9] - a controversial wish in the context of the "autonomy" conflict in this Serbian province.

Old Traditions

The current Danube plans are linked to old traditions in German hegemonic policy. Already in the 19th century, Friedrich List, the "father of German national economy," had considered the Danube to be the main line of German expansion to Southeast Europe and the Near and Middle East.[10] From that time to the Nazi period, measures undertaken to impose an informal German empire along the banks of the Danube, have always gone under the label "Central Europe".[11] In the 1970s important elements of this policy were revived - for example in 1977 when the Bavarian Prime Minister, Franz-Josef Strauss founded the "Alps Adriatic Working Community". This brought representatives of West Germany, Austria, Hungary, as well as from Italian federal provinces together on a regular basis with representatives of the Yugoslav Republics of Slovenia and Croatia. Their activities served to coordinate a common "realm" policy and promoted the particularism in Slovenia and Croatia, a means by which, according to the French daily, Le Monde, a wedge was to be driven in the [cohesion] of the Yugoslav state.[12] Currently some of the splinters of southeastern European states, which were disintegrated with active West German participation, are reconvening in the "Council of the Danube Cities and Regions" directed from Ulm.

[1] Ministerpräsident Oettinger lädt am Mittwoch in Ulm zum Donaugipfel; Schwäbische Zeitung 04.05.2009
[2] Ziele; www.donaubuero.de
[3] Langer wirbt mit weiteren Titeln für Ulm; Südwestpresse 19.03.2009
[4] see also Raum im Werden, Deutscher Raum, Aus der Tiefe des Raums, Herrscher im Raum and Räumliche Progression
[5] "Ulmer Erklärung" aus Anlass des Internationalen Donaufestes 2008
[6] see also Modernisierung, Unheimlicher Anschluss (II) and Ein Zeichen der Freundschaft
[7] Donaugipfel tagt in Ulm; www.ulm.ihk24.de 25.02.2009
[8] see also Im dritten Anlauf (II)
[9] "In Ulm beginnt das blaue Band der Donau"; Südwestpresse 14.03.2009
[10] see also Klaus Thörner: "Der ganze Südosten ist unser Hinterland"
[11] see also Ohne Eigenständigkeit and Klaus Thörner: "Der ganze Südosten ist unser Hinterland"
[12] Luc Rosenzweig: L'Allemagne puissance protectrice des Slovenes et Croates; Le Monde 04.07.1991