Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the clearance of the Danube

  1.  As an international waterway, Danube navigation is managed by the Danube Commission based in Budapest. In late 1999 the Commission approached the European Union with a request for help in removing unexploded ordnance and debris and repairing the riverbed at Novi Sad. With the cooperation of Austria, as Commission Chair, and with the support of other EU member states, the European Commission agreed to design and co-finance an appropriate project; and the proposal was adopted at the General Affairs Council in July 2000. The EU agreed to provide 85 per cent of project costs, up to a ceiling of 22 meuro (£14 million).

  2.  During summer 2000, the project was delayed by FRY insistence on the appointment of a Yugoslav National as Project Director (and threats to block the project if the FRY candidate did not get the position: the Danube Commission operates on the basis of unanimity). Following the fall of Milosevic, European Commission representatives visited Belgrade on 9 October for discussions with the new FRY authorities. The FRY's previous objections were rescinded and on 16 October a Project Director was finally appointed with responsibility for publishing and selecting tenders.

  3.  Tendering is underway. Work will start in the spring once equipment is on site and water levels have fallen. The Danube Commission and NATO have begun technical consultations on the possible location of unexploded ordnance. The Danube Commission expects navigation on the Danube to be fully restored in summer 2001, and the final part of the project—restoration of the riverbeds—will be completed in late 2001/early 2002. The EU is not a member of the Danube Commission, but has been effective in pushing this project forward. The European Commission made funds available within two weeks of the Council's decision to adopt the proposal, and has also tried to speed up the process by drafting several of the tenders in advance and by reducing deadlines under EU procurement rules to a minimum. ££1. The Danube Commission has established a website (, where tenders are listed publicly, in line with EU procurement rules.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

22 February 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 March 2001