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CONCLUSION of Freshwater clustering event

The BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic organised FreshWater Clustering event organized in a hybrid from in Brussels on the 19th of March...


FreshWater Clustering Event

to showcase BIOEAST projects & Discuss Macro-regional priorities

19/ March 2024, Brussels

The BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic organised FreshWater Clustering event organized in a hybrid from in Brussels on the 19th of March to show good practice related to fresh water, discuss BIOEAST macro-regional priorities and intensify the involvement in the international collaboration. The event aimed to illustrate the importance of the “freshwater” topic and highlight the need for further research, innovation, and investment to tackle the scarcity of natural resources and related issues of sustainability, food and energy security, and solution for societal impasse.

The one-day discussion with over 45 participants including high level EU officials, leaders of programs, projects, coordinators, and partners of international projects highlighted the role of the BIOEAST macro-region to solve the emerging issues related to fresh water, food, and energy nexus. The conference was structured into the three following sections: the presentation EU Water Mission and Water4All Partnership approach to water challenges, international cooperation linking water management with social-economic development was a topic of the first one. The second section was a panel discussion focused on good practice, gaps, needs and specificities of the BIOEAST macro-region. The third one was dedicated to pitch presentations of the fresh water related projects.

 Freshwater akce Brusel 2024  Freshwater akce Brusel 2024

The conference was opened by Barna Kovacs, Secretary General of the BIOEAST Initiative. In his welcome speech he challenged the need to transfer the BIOEAST macro-region from the biomass supplier to producer to support the long term self-sustainable food system for Europe. Barna Kovacs advocated the urgent need to build up a European freshwater R&I programme and a specific join programming structures for the BIOEAST macro-region to support knowledge transfer, to mobilise research and innovation investment, to establish efficient research funding structure and human resource to empower the sustainable transition. Anastasia Perouli welcomed the participants on behalf of the BIOEAST HUB Czech Republic and the BIOEAST Thematic Working Group Fresh Water Based Bioeconomy a network supporting dialog between policy makers and academia that is share and building knowledge from the on-goings international projects and enhance the international collaboration.

Szilvia Németh Deputy Head of Unit for Healthy Ocean, Seas and Waters at the European Commission, DG RTD, urged better participation and revealed the budget size and number of Mission Charter actions by each basin, the Danube River basin dropping behind. Less than 10% of the 600 total accepted actions are dedicated to the Danube River basin, the portion from the total budget 4,5 billion EUR for the Danube River basin does not even reach 150 mil. EUR. Water related research is covered by the Horizon Europe Cluster 6 Work Programme with the total yearly budget of nearly 200 mil. EUR. There is a good potential to expand BIOEAST macro*-region's related stakeholders participation.

Ariane Blum, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Water4all coordinator describe the Water4All partnerships and all new ways how to support research. Ariane Blum accented the intersections between Water4All target and Thematic Study developed for the TWG Fresh Water Based Bioeconomy: implementation of new solutions based on the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate, primarily nature-based solutions, alignment with the Strategy of the Water Framework and Floods Directive; the need to ensure water quality for healthy environment, secure supply of drinking water and prevent contamination and pollution.  She urged BIOEAST Thematic Working Group Fresh Water to get involved in the consultation process to revise the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda in 2025 and encourage Lithuania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia and Western Balkan countries on board.

Panel discussion was opened by Martin Kováč, Climate Club, former state secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Slovak Republic, who presented new concept for agricultural knowledge base nexus and new solutions for rainwater for climate healing. Martin Kováč illustrated a holistic solution for soil – water – vegetation – climate – food – energy implementing the concept of the Soil – Carbon and Water Bank of valuation and financing of soil and landscape ecosystem services. He demonstrated three key pillars: soil – information & monitoring system, carbon & water bank certification system and new climate fund as financial instrument for climate actions. He clarified the importance of small water cycle renewal over land as it can temper extreme weather events and ensure a growth in water reserves. He demonstrated that sufficient water in the soil causes the transformation of solar energy into latent heat, which is then transported by water vapor into the colder layers of the atmosphere. Daily heat transport can reach 6 KWh/m2 and if the vapor descends, sensible heat accumulates in the lower troposphere of 1,5 °C. This solution is being implemented in Green Restoration Plan of the Košice Region in the recovery programme.

Barbara Botos, Hungarian Climate and Water Ambassador, former state secretary of the Ministry of Innovation Hungary reflected on sharing best practice experience with a solution of developed regions, that is however not replicable in the BIOEAST macro-region as the conditions related to water management is different. This is however just one example to demonstrate, that there are differences (both technical, cultural) that require tailored made solutions for the BIOEAST macro-region. Barbara Botos shared her experience with life projects as they can be a good example of inter disciplinary cooperation. Regarding the encouragement for Central and Eastern Europe she accentuated the Life Programme approach that enables proper balance between project coordinators being from the whole EU. She reminded difficulties in convincing governmental and local authorities to participate in the research project as they bring benefits in rather a longer period. This needs to be address as there are on one hand regions emerging with different priorities and processes in the EU and others who are slightly behind to prevent them being left behind.

This opens a discussion with the EU representative on the role of the EU Commission and the power to influence policy makers.  Central and Eastern Europe differs from the Western, Northern and Southern Europe perhaps in the intensity to involve in the EU Missions, EU Partnership, SCAR committees that is reflected in priorities (that do not reflect CEE needs) and subsequently in the lower participation. The unique role of the BIOEAST Imitative and its working macro-regional (Thematic Working Groups) and national bodies (BIOEAST HUBs) is to bridge these gaps, support policy makers, facilitate the policy – expert dialog, promote existing solutions and introduce experts from CEE.

The third session was open by presentations of the DALIA Danube Lighthouse project, presented by Marton Pesel OVF, the project coordinator. DALIA is developing demonstration for the Danube River to provide innovations for solving the emerging environmental and societal issues, reviewing current freshwater restoration assessment frameworks and providing relevant guidance and standards. The DALIA Knowledge HUB will be realised on-line, likewise the open call that are planned for May.  Anastasia Perouli presented the NIAGARA project coordinated by ITENE that is developing highly accurate, cost-effective solutions; fast, hydraulic model based on Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics to predict the spread of pollutants in real time in a pilot demonstrator of the drinking water distribution network in the city of Valencia (Spain).

Oriana Georges F6S introduced the Restore4Life that is developing wetland Restoration Decision Support System. Monika Meiczinger, University of Pannonia showed the Danube Wetlands and flood plains restoration that are being developed through systemic, community-engaged and sustainable innovative actions in the DaWetRest project. Katarina Cetinic, NIVA talked about the SOS- Water project which is integrating of water system models with sectoral impact models in five different case studies. Twan Stoffers presented the BioAgora project Linking-up with existing networks, assess capacity gaps actors and facilitate capacity building.  Lisa Waldenberger presented the Eco Advance project coordinated by BOKU, Gordana Radic, Educons University Serbia presented the GreenLand project, David Attila Molnar presented DALIA demo site Plastic Cup on the Tisza River Sub-basin, with the Danube, Aqua Plastic INTERREG Danube Project and Riversaver Schools Erasmus+ project. Michael Kravčík People and Water presented a new solution for the Kysuca River integrated prevention against draught, floods, and climate changes. De Meersman Nick Vlaamse Milienmaatschappij presented Clancy project that manages roadmaps for crabs. Zia Zrinyi, Soos Erno Research and Development Centre introduce monitoring of water pollutants and an online platform that is being developed with the University of Pannonia. Katalin Bene, Széchenyi István University presented DALIA pilot site in Szigetkoz.

Katalin Bene, Martina Makai-Széchenyi István University presented a project Every drop count! project that is developing a model area for sustainable liveable regional development good water stewardship and provision of ecosystem services to improve quality of life, bioecology and climate resiliency. This project was supported by the Insula Magna program supported by the Hungarian Government with a budget of 5 million EUR public funding funds in the last 3 years, an additional 100 million EUR will be spend  for water related project phase. David Attila Moldar presented Water Balance model for the Danube basin that is coordinated by OVF.  Digu Aruchamy, Centre Technologic de Catalunya presented ReCreate project, Rui Martins, University of Coimbra, Portugal introduced H2OforAll Innovative Integrated Tools and Technologies to Protect and Treat Drinking Water from Disinfection By-products project. Martin Kováč closed the session with a presentation of the need to institutional support for land restoration and renewal of small water cycles, i.e.: the need to monitore of small water cycles and integrated water and soil planning, maintaining, and restoring small water cycles in the ecosystems – land rehydration and secure financial resources to maintenance and restoration of small water cycles as financing ecosystem services as it was discussed on the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.

Freshwater is crucial for the BIOEAST countries, the execution of relevant agendas is notably fragmented, with multiple ministries and entities involved. Both the EU Mission and the Water4All partnership presents an excellent opportunity for the BIOEAST countries. The BIOEAST Initiative, along with its Thematic Working Group on FreshWater-Based Bioeconomy, holds the promise to serve as a macro-regional network where diverse interests can be deliberated. BIOEAST macro-region has a specific needs and needs tailored made solutions, the solutions from other part of the EU might not be easily replicated.

FreshWater clustering event launched the Freshwater Net as a network bringing fresh water-related projects together, to support the cooperation and effort in gaining lasting visibility. The event attracted projects financed by various programmers from the whole EU. The Freshwater Net aims to venture new possibilities for collaboration and also to support the involvement of policymakers especially from the BIOEAST macro-region in scaling up activities.