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International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River Basin
19 May 2020 00:00

The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is an International Organisation consisting of 14 cooperating states and the European Union. Since its establishment in 1998, the ICPDR has grown into one of the largest and most active international bodies of river basin management expertise in Europe. The ICPDR deals not only with the Danube itself, but also with the whole Danube River Basin, which includes its tributaries and ground water resources.

The ICPDR’s legal basis is the “Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable use of the Danube River (Danube River Protection Convention)”, generally referred to as the “Danube River Protection Convention” or “DRPC”. It commits the contracting parties (Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and the European Union) to join their efforts in sustainable water management, including conservation of surface and ground water, pollution reduction, and the prevention and control of floods, accidents and ice hazards. The convention was signed in Sofia in 1994 and came into force in October 1998.

What is a River Basin?

The ICPDR serves as the coordinating platform to address multilateral and basin-wide issues at the roof level of the DRBD (Danube River Basin District). The investigations, analyses and findings at this basin-wide scale focus on rivers with catchment areas larger than 4,000 km², lakes with a surface area larger than 100 km², plus transitional waters, coastal waters, and trans boundary groundwater bodies of basin-wide importance.

Waters with smaller catchment and surface areas are subject to planning at sub-basin level, national level (managed through the respective competent authorities) or at sub-unit level. All of this planning combined provides a full set of information for the whole DRBD, covering all waters (surface as well as groundwater), irrespectively of their size. The different levels allow for more detailed planning where necessary, ensuring effective overall coordination.

Key functions of the Commission

The ICPDR was created to implement the Danube River Protection Convention (DRPC). It is both a forum to allow its contracting parties to coordinate the implementation of the DRPC and a platform to review the progress they make. The key objectives of the ICPDR include the following:

  • Ensure sustainable water management;
  • Ensure conservation, improvement and rational use of surface waters and ground water;
  • Control pollution and reduce inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances;
  • Control floods and ice hazards.

The ICPDR also facilitates cooperation between the Danube countries and the Black Sea region in issues requiring coordination. Furthermore, it cooperates with other international organisations where appropriate, and addresses new challenges related to water management (e.g. climate change adaption) as they emerge.

When the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD, formally Directive 2000/60/EC) was adopted in October 2000, all countries cooperating under the DRPC (which includes at present 8 EU and 6 non EU member states) decided to make all efforts to implement the Directive throughout the whole basin. The Non EU Member States also committed themselves to implement the WFD within the frame of the DRPC. In addition, the ICPDR serves as a coordination platform for the basin-wide implementation of the EU Floods Directive (EFD, formally Directive 2007/60/EC).

How is the Commission managed?

The ICPDR is an international organisation. It meets twice a year: The Ordinary Meeting is held in Vienna in December, while another meeting with the Heads of Delegations is held in June in the country that currently holds the Presidency. The meetings comprise of delegations of contracting parties and observer organisations. Every contracting party has one Head of Delegation representing the country. For every decision, the primary goal is to reach some form of consensus between the members. The ICPDR President chairs each meeting. The ICPDR Presidency is passed on from one country to another in an alphabetical order every year.

In addition, much of the work of the ICPDR is done by Expert Groups (EG), which are panels of specialists from the ICPDR contracting parties and observers – usually civil servants of the relevant ministries, in some cases employees of NGOs or contracted agencies. There are seven permanent Expert Groups (EG) and one ad hoc EG. The EGs all have Terms of Reference and mandates adopted by the Commission. They usually meet twice to three times a year. Time- and target-limited task groups may also be established for specific tasks, which are not necessarily represented in all countries.

The expert groups discuss issues related to their Terms of Reference and prepare reports and recommendations for coordinated action.

What are the most important activities?

In a nutshell, the ICPDR (1) assesses the state of surface and ground waters in the Danube River Basin; (2) develops actions to conserve or improve these waters; (3) collects information on the implementation and progress of these actions; and (4) supports individual contracting parties or other relevant entities in the implementation efforts of these actions. From this, a range of activities can be derived.

Particularly important ones include:

  • implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive;
  • implementation of the EU Flood Directive as well as the orchestration of basin-wide flood protection measures;
  • Danube-wide assessments in the course of a “Joint Danube Survey” and through the Transnational Monitoring Network (TNMN);
  • involvement in the EU Danube Strategy;
  • coordination to maintain an accident emergency warning system (AEWS) and risk spot inventories;
  • modelling of nutrient pollution loads that enter the Black Sea via the Danube;
  • efforts to define strict phosphate caps for laundry and dishwasher detergents;
  • technology exchange in areas such as the construction or modernisation of wastewater treatment plants;
  • maintenance of emission directories and GIS data management;
  • implementation of measures to fight hydromorphological alterations, nutrient pollution, organic pollution and hazardous substance pollution;
  • protection of habitats and wetland restoration including promotion of fish passes where needed and development and maintenance of a network of protected areas (Danube Parks);
  • dialogue with representatives from sectors affecting water such as hydropower, navigation or agriculture;
  • management of awareness raising campaigns such as the Danube Box, a teaching program for schools;
  • organisation of Danube Day, a public event;
  • exchange with other river commissions, such as ORASECOM of the Orange River;
  • exchange on environmental issues and collaboration in Danube sub-basins such as the Tisza, Prut, Sava or Danube Delta;
  • collaboration with private companies to promote the work of the ICPDR (“Business Friends of the Danube”);

and many more.

The main Central Authorities of Ukraine, responsible for the cooperation with the International Commission, are the MinEcoEnergo of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

The work of the ICPDR is supported by a Permanent Secretariat located in Vienna, Austria.

ICPDR Secretariat

Vienna International Centre, Room D0412

Wagramer Strasse 5, A-1220 Vienna, Austria

E-Mail: [email protected]

Telephone: +431 260 60 5738

Fax: +431 260 60 5895

The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna actively cooperates with the ICPDR Secretariat and coordinates the work of the Central Authorities of Ukraine, responsible for the cooperation with the Commission. The Permanent Mission of Ukraine also participates in all events, organised by the Secretariat and the Commission in the framework of the ICPDR in Vienna.

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