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Slovenia hands over the EUSDR Presidency to Austria

Minister Tanja Fajon welcomed ministers and representatives from 14 Danube countries to a ministerial meeting at Brdo pri Kranju and opened the 12th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). Slovenia thus concluded its one-year EUSDR Presidency and handed it over to Austria. More than 350 participants from all over Europe attended the Forum.

The 12th Annual Forum opened with a meeting of ministers responsible for the Danube Region, where Minister Fajon underlined that Slovenia had received strong support from all countries participating in the Strategy during its EUSDR Presidency. She added that she would continue her efforts to strengthen these links and provide political guidance for the further development of the Strategy. In her speech, she also focused on young people: "The future of the region depends on the younger generations. I am proud that the first Danube Youth Council was established during the Slovenian Presidency, as their contribution is crucial for the implementation of the priorities of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region."

Ministers later adopted a joint statement expressing solidarity with Ukraine, highlighting the role of macro-regional integration and youth in the EU enlargement process, and addressing the challenges of the region’s future development.

At the opening of the Annual Forum, Minister Tanja Fajon stressed the importance of regional cooperation against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, migration pressure and natural disasters. The EU Strategy for the Danube Region will be an important element in the preparation of the candidate countries on their path towards the EU. "During its Presidency, Slovenia has worked closely with representatives of the Danube Youth Council. Young people are co-creators of our common future and a vital element in the EU integration process," said the Minister. In a special debate during the Forum, young people presented their visions for the future of the region. "We have repeatedly shown that cooperation and solidarity are not just empty words and that the importance of macro-regional strategies lies in promoting them while finding common solutions to emerging regional challenges," the Minister added.

After the official opening of the Annual Forum, Minister Fajon participated in the high-level panel on the EU enlargement process and the EUSDR. The panel, which included Alexander Schallenberg, Federal Minister European and International Affairs of Austria, Elmedin Konaković, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Tanja Miščević, Minister of European Integration of the Republic of Serbia, focused on the current challenges related to the enlargement process in each candidate country and the EU's preparations for enlargement by 2030.

The high-level panel was followed by a ceremonial handover of the helm to the next Presidency, Austria, during which Minister Fajon expressed gratitude towards the dedicated Slovenian EUSDR Presidency. "I believe that I am handing over the Presidency in good shape and I trust that Austria will maintain our current course. Slovenia remains dedicated to the process as a committed partner," she emphasised. One of the primary aims of our Presidency was to reinvigorate macro-regional collaboration and lay the groundwork for forthcoming challenges. We successfully met our objectives through organising over 40 thematic events and facilitating 32 administrative meetings.

The 12th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region marks the conclusion of the year-long Slovenian EUSDR Presidency. During this event, participants engaged in expert discussions covering various topics, including the role of youth, civil society's contribution to the reconstruction of Ukraine, the knowledge society, future professions, connectivity, energy challenges, and water management within the region.

Launched in 2010, the EU Strategy for the Danube Region represents the oldest EU macro-regional strategy in which Slovenia plays an active role. Alongside Slovenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine are also active participants. Slovenia's involvement extends to three of the EU's four macro-regional strategies, providing a unique opportunity for collaboration with different countries and regions, particularly in the Western Balkans.