An article today in the Austrian Times highlights concerns in Austria about a new Hungarian law limiting the number of cargo barge using the river Danube. It seems that the Hungarians are arguing the law is needed for environmental reason but the counter claim is that they need to put more focus on infrastructure measures and water level management.
A policy that pushes ore and coal traffic off the waterways onto road and rail is in itself environmentally damaging, so this would seem on first viewing to be an example of needing to look at the wider picture. The EU has agreements in place that are meant to increase the days of navigation on the Danube which this law aim to help achieve, but it goes against the EU target of increasing barge traffic by 20%.
The protection of the environment, shared resources and free flow of commerce are all arguments for countries to work together and pool sovereignty within the EU, for their own and the greater good. Based on his story it would appear that we are yet again failing to seeing those benefits materialising.
Getting this co-operation right is likely to become even more important as the Alpine glaciers continue to shrink. The major source of water for central Europe their decline is certain to have environmental and economic impacts that will only be successfully address through Europe wide strategies – the alternative is increasing tension between countries and the loss of environment, resources and wealth.
On a lighter note, this report is a good excuse for me to put on the blog these pictures of a coal barge travelling through the Vienna stretch of the Danube.