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Statement of the Ombudsman for Future Generations on International Danube Day

On the occasion of the International Danube Day, Ombudsman for Future Generations Dr. Gyula Bándi urges a closer cooperation between the neighboring countries for the preservation of the ecosystem services provided by the common river, as well as the resolution of the environmental problems of the Carpathian Basin.

On 29 June, i.e. on the International Danube Day, we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, which serves as the legal basis for cooperative cross-border water resources management in the entire catchment area of the Danube. On this day, we draw attention to the protection of the river, as well as the importance of the sustainable and equitable management of our surface and groundwater supplies.

The signatories of the convention expressed their determination to cooperate, by using all legal, administrative and technical means, in improving water quality, preserving the environmental status of the Danube and its catchment area, and in preventing, stopping or at least reducing the unfavorable changes.

As a downstream country, Hungary is often affected by environmental impacts generated in the neighboring countries by the intermediation of rivers and this is not only the case with the Danube. The “polluter pays” principle and the fundamental European Union environmental policy principles of prevention should also be enforced on an international level. Due to the patches of garbage that sometimes float down on our rivers, the water pollution caused by inadequate wastewater treatment or even by industrial accidents, Hungary’s environmental and natural values are damaged too. Thus, the International Danube Day is a good opportunity to contemplate the situation of our rivers in general.

In order to avoid such emergencies, all those affected should take enhanced action, providing encouragement and support to the neighboring countries with the establishment and operation of waste management systems that are in compliance with the European standards, with the undelayed performance of the most urgent environmental remediation jobs, and the reduction of the number of developments involving high environmental risks. 

In order to achieve a good ecological condition of the Danube and its tributaries, Hungary also has to take serious efforts. First of all, we have to refrain from all kinds of interventions that jeopardize the remaining natural values, be they aimed at flood prevention, transport or tourist development, or the improvement of sailing conditions. In realizing economic objectives, we should never forget that the preservation of natural values for future generations is a fundamental constitutional requirement, for the enforcement of which the level of environmental protection may only be reduced to the slightest permissible extent, exclusively in the interests of safeguarding similar basic values, by adhering to the principle of necessity and proportionality. 

This is also valid for the protection of semi-natural floodplain forests, which are of critical importance not only for their own value as habitats of unique richness but also, as the basic elements of the national ecosystem - their destruction causes irreparable harm. Similarly important tasks include the consistent enforcement of the territorial restrictions of industrial developments with a view to protecting drinking water supplies, or the reduction of the environmental impacts arising from ballast digging to the minimum.