The Danube River Network of Protected Areas

The Protected Areas along the Danube preserve and restore the most valuable habitats of this international river, thus safeguarding an important part of Europe’s natural heritage for future generations. Cross-border and transnational cooperation is an indispensable part of this work; nature doesn’t recognise state borders, so nature protection needs cooperation across borders as well if results are to be achieved.

Therefore, DANUBEPARKS – the Danube River Network of Protected Areas – was founded in April 2007 through the signing of the Declaration of Tulcea. Eight protected areas were among the founders of this network, and many more joined their work during the early years. In 2014, the DANUBEPARKS Association was founded to provide a more stable framework of cooperation and a stronger joint voice. Step by step, all former network partners are integrated into the Association.

The goal is to finally bring together all Protected Area administrations along the Danube as well as the bigger tributaries (Prut, Sava, Tisza, Morava, etc.), which share the same problems and are therefore able to solve these issues more efficiently by close cooperation.

Aims of the Network

Based on the principles of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention and Co-operation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River (Sofia, 1994), the Declaration of Tulcea solidifies the aims of the Network:

  • enhance nature conservation of Danube River Protected Areas
  • manage Danube Protected Areas wisely
  • exchange and promote expertise in management
  • improve knowledge of the ecological status of the river, as well as the the economic, social and environmental impacts and the management of the Danube Protected Areas
  • take actions for the prevention, control and reduction of pollution in the floodplains and wetlands in the Danube Basin
  • promote awareness of the international importance of the Danube River
  • promote sustainable development
  • influence the implementation and future development of public policies

The Declaration of Vienna, signed by twelve partners on the occasion of the Kick-Off Event of the first joint transnational project, and the Statutes of the DANUBEPARKS Association further detail these aims as well as the means of cooperation.

Three steps of cooperation measures

The DANUBEPARKS Network pursues its goals on the basis of continuous informal cooperation, but mainly implements conservation actions contributing to these goals by EU-cofinanced transnational projects. The programme which fitted the network best in the first years was the ETC-SEE (European Territorial Cooperation, Sout-East Europe) Programme, with its priority axis on “Protection and Improvement of the Environment” and the Area of Intervention contained therein to “Promote cooperation in management of natural assets and protected areas”. Within all projects, the network aims to achieve a balance between the three identified steps of cooperation: Experience exchange builds the base, transnational strategies outline the tasks for the future, and pilot projects implement the common plans locally and visibly all along the Danube River.

The first project that the Danube Protected Areas implemented jointly, from April 2009 to February 2012, was called DANUBEPARKS and had a budget of € 2,7 mio. To find out more about the activities and results achieved in this project – ranging from River Morphology to Nature Tourism, from Habitat Networks to Transnational Monitoring and Species Preservation – proceed here to the project description.

The second joint project, called DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0, is currently ongoing (October 2012 until September 2014) and builds on the results of the first one, working on implementing joint plans, raising results to policy level and sustainably anchoring the DANUBEPARKS partnership both in the region and with other stakeholders. To find out more about this project with a budget of € 2,2 mio and activities for White-tailed Eagle, Black Poplar, river dynamics and nature tourism, continue to read here.

The activities and results of both projects can be found in more detail in the five thematic areas of Morphology, Habitats, Species, Monitoring and Tourism, whereas the News section will update you on any upcoming events or recently implemented actions.

Cooperation and Partnership

DANUBEPARKS works on various issues, including river morphology, forest management, tourism and many more. For all of these areas the integration and cooperation with stakeholders is vital. The Network has therefore established the following formal cooperations:

ICPDR (International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River): The DANUBEPARKS Network is an observer to the ICPDR, integrating the voice of the Protected Areas in General Assembly and Working Groups. Cooperation with the ICPDR, however, goes far beyond this formal observership as the Danube-wide Monitoring in the DANUBEPARKS STEP 2.0 project shows.

EUSDR (EU Strategy for the Danube Region): This macro-regional strategy is the new framework for cooperation in the Danube region with DANUBEPARS as "flagship project" 

DCC (Danube Competence Center): The DANUBEPARKS Network is a member of the DCC, an association of tourism stakeholders with the aim to improve and promote sustainable tourism along the Danube. The membership provides access to education and training, joint marketing activities and allows for the promotion of nature-friendly tourism. 

NEWADA (Network of Danube Waterway Administrations): The NEWADA Network represents the navigation sector, with which nature protection has many conflicting fields but also important opportunities for synergies. Both networks are represented as observer partners in each respective project, and a joint conference is planned for 2013 to improve respect for nature in waterway administration.

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