English transcripts of the speeches given by H.E. Péter Sztáray State Secretary for Security Policy of the MFAT and Dr Pál Völner, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Justice and chair of the Hungarian National Navigation Alliance at a reception on the occasion of the establishment of the Danube Commission and 70th anniversary of the signature of the Belgrade Convention.

Speech of H.E. Péter Sztáray:

Ladies and Gentleman,

I am pleased to welcome you to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Danube Commission, it is especially it is my honour to greet, the Representatives of its members states and the Secretariat.

The Danube Commission is like a phoenix, we could see its rebirth from ashes in different forms since 1856 several times. The principle of the freedom of navigation on international waterways was already settled at the 1815 Vienna Congress. When it functioned well, it reflected the interests of the Danube states and guaranteed the right to free navigation. After WWII, in 1948 the great powers agreed to convene a special conference on the elaboration of a new convention on the Danube navigation. The result  of the conference was the Belgrade Convention, which was signed on 18th August 1948 by seven signatories: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Romania and the Soviet Union. Since 1954, the headquarter of the Danube Commission and its Secretariat is located in Budapest, where today 11 member states work together in this framework.

The Danube with its 2860 kilometres connects not only 10 Danube states, but also altogether 19 states in its basin. Since the opening of the Danube-Main-Rhine canal in 1992, the Danube has been one of the vital European transport corridors. Just by traveling on the Danube, we can travel between Rotterdam and Sulina or we can sail from the North to the Black Sea.

We have to mention the great sister river Commission, partner Commission of the Danube Commission, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine with its headquarter in Strasbourg, which this month celebrates its 150th anniversary. The Mannheim Convention, its legal foundation was signed on 17th October 1868. Congratulations!

The Danube is our common treasure, an ecologically friendly means of transport, but also our source of water, energy. It is important for our agriculture. We have to strengthen conditions for international cooperation, to underline the Danube’s economic integrative function and on the other hand to guarantee sustainable development, the protection of environment. Our task is to find the way how to accommodate conflicting interests through deepening and fostering international cooperation.

We welcome the improvement of the cooperation between the Danube Commission and other international organizations, such as the EU Directorate-General (DG MOVE), ICPDR, Central European Initiative, the Sava Commission. We expect from these agreements, that in addition to the improvement in Danube navigation conditions, the  2 Danube countries will receive a greater role when designing the inland navigation regime.

The regional cooperation between the Danube and the Black Sea region is also important for us. Since 1 July 2018 Hungary became an observing member of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, with the headquarter in Istanbul.

Last year in October, Hungary hosted the 6th Annual Forum of the Danube Regional Strategy under the title “A secure, connected and prospering Danube Region” that has put a strong emphasis on discussing the challenges and perspectives of energy security, clean connectivity and infrastructure development of the Region. Furthermore, the Hungarian Presidency also aimed to find ways to better integrate the non-EU countries participating in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region – with a specific emphasis on the Western-Balkans – so that they have greater access to the opportunities provided by such macro-regional cooperation and benefit further from its implementation.

Hungary, as president of the Preparatory Committee revising the Belgrade Convention fully supports the work of the Danube Commission. We are committed to the modernization of the Commission and the revision of the Belgrade Convention. We need the active participation of each member state for further steps to have an organization able to respond to the new challenges.

We started this year with a commemoration on the 7th of March jointly with the Secretariat of the Danube Commission by opening an exhibition „Danube Commission 70” in the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary. Today we gathered to celebrate together with the head of diplomatic missions concerned, the representatives of the Hungarian sailor society, expert on navigation, flood protection, environmental protection, representatives of different ministries this important anniversary of our common Danube Commission. Furthermore this year we plan to organize a conference with the cooperation of the Institute of Foreign Policy and Trade on the issues of the Danube Commission and inland navigation. So, by showing the past, reflecting on the present tasks, we would like to speak also about our future, our visions, our strategical goals.

The Danube played sometimes strange roles: after WWII the bridge between Esztergom and Štúrovo (Parkány) was destroyed. Families, relatives, friends were divided, separated for a long time, there was no possibility to travel to the other bank of the river. So the people went to the bank of the Danube in the early morning or late evening, to escape from the attention of the soldiers, and whisperred their message toward the other bank. We call it now aquaphone. And the waves of the Danube helped deliver the messages, these were the signs of hope across the river. I wish for us along the Danube, and for everyone who is responsible for the work in different aspects of our beautiful river to send, and receive good messages about our joint treasure: the Danube.

I wish for us, for the Danube Commission: fruitful cooperation, better navigation on the Danube and a sustainable environment in the Danube basin. Finally, I would like to assure you that you can count on our support and cooperation as a host country. Thank you for your kind attention!


Speech of Dr Pál Völner:

Distinguished Participants,

On behalf of the Hungarian National Navigation Alliance I would like to also greet our distinguished guests and thank you for accepting the invitation to our reception combined with a boat trip, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Danube Commission established by the signature of the Belgrade Convention. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here, in Budapest, at the seat of the Commission.

First of all allow me to say a few words about the activities of the Hungarian National Navigation Alliance. In 2004, fourteen years ago it was established with the purpose of providing professional information for organizations active on water, helping them in enforcing their interests, and if necessary, providing organizational and co-ordination tasks. Recently those who are actively involved in navigation constitute a significant proportion of our membership, as the Alliance represents hundreds of members through its member organizations. Our membership includes organizations representing professional freight, passenger and ferry shipping, organizations providing background services for shipping and water sport organizations. These include the Alliance of Passenger Shipping (Személyhajósok Szövetsége), the Association of Hungarian Inland Water Freighters (Magyar Belvízi Fuvarozók Szövetsége), the National Alliance of Ferry Shipping (Révhajósok Országos Szövetsége) and the Hungarian Yachting Association (Magyar Vitorlás Szövetség) as well.

Since its formation, representatives of the Alliance have always been striving for their activities not to be confrontational, but to rather find solutions. With our persistent work this has led to a good relationship established with organizations interested in navigation, water transport, water sports or with bodies regulating or controlling their security from the side of the government, state administration and local-governments. Due to the special importance of the organization, its secretary general regularly participates on meetings of the General Assembly of Budapest related to navigation issues. The Alliance also seeks to be in a continuous contact with the Water Police.

Our Alliance is a public-benefit organization, which was deserved – among others – by preparing numerous proposals and giving opinions on draft laws in co-operation with organizations acting in legislation. As an example, I would like to mention that currently we are working on the preparation of exams for professional crew members taking into account market needs and the changing international standards. In addition, in the recent days, we also made proposals for navigation safety regulations in the area of the capital, whereby an official provision has already been issued. Co-operation is also improving in the field of the realization of local government investments related to our ports or I could also mention the organizations that maintain our waterways, with which we have an excellent relationship as well.

Our Alliance considers as its important task to provide members for a new nautical generation by helping its membership – and besides them organizations and persons dealing with navigation – primarily with providing professional training and education, giving qualification materials and professional opinions.

We are permanent participants of water events organized by governmental offices, where numerous disadvantaged people had the opportunity to enjoy shipping and being on water. Regarding our own events, I would like to highlight the Annual Spring Outbound Shipping as the opening event of the navigation season, with which the Alliance wishes to draw attention to shipping as a travel and tourism opportunity. This year, at the third occasion, about 30 vessels made a formation at the downtown area of the Danube, and numerous passengers – including hundreds of disadvantaged children – were taken to sightseeing cruises. Furthermore I consider equally important the fundraising action held in co-operation with the “Save a life!” Foundation. Each year crew members collect and donate money in order to fulfil a wish of a child who is sick or recovering but still under strict medical prescription.

As the chair of the Hungarian National Navigation Alliance I consider it important to emphasise that the relation between the Danube Commission and the Alliance has been excellent according to the experiences of the past years. Alongside of the European Union the Danube Commission is the only platform whereby the Hungarian navigation can enforce its interests, so it is indispensable to cultivate and strengthen this cooperation, since in the field of Danube navigation there is undoubtedly a prominent role of the Commission in the promotion of co-operation within the member states and non-members of European Union as well.

Thank you for your kind attention!

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)