Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:
- Restoration of at least 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers, in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Zero Pollution Plan and the Water Framework Directive as well as other EU instruments and policies that concern freshwater ecosystem protection;
- Reduction of artificial river flow barriers, improved eco-system connectivity in the Danube river basin (Danube river, its delta and its main tributaries), enhancement of water quality, enhancement of management of riparian zones and optimised sediment flow to the Black Sea;
- Enhanced restoration of freshwater ecosystems in the Danube river basin with nature-based solutions, including on the Danube delta and the Black sea;
- Increased population of the main fish, mollusc and other freshwater and Danube delta (transitional waters) species, especially emblematic species such as sturgeon;
- Improved protection of local communities and ecosystems from extreme events (flood, droughts, storms) in the Danube river basin and its delta, in particular with nature based solutions;
- Support the scaling up of ecosystem and biodiversity restoration in the ‘associated regions’ within the Danube river basin and Black Sea;
- Increased share of local revenue and business activities from the restored ecosystems in the overall local economic activities.
Proposals will show an effective and economically profitable way to freshwater ecosystem restoration and their sustainable use in the Danube river basin (including the transitional waters of Danube river delta), focusing on the reduction of the impact of artificial river flow barriers on wildlife movement, restoration and protection of biodiversity and valuable ecosystems (biodiversity hotspots), protection of inhabited areas against floods, measures to reduce impact of drought on freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity as well as sustainable management of river sediments. Nature-based solutions for freshwater ecosystem restoration and sustainable use will be at the forefront of the proposals. Successful projects will at the same time show the way to profitable and sustainable use of the restored freshwater and Danube delta ecosystems and demonstrate how sustainable local activities can be built on and connected with these restored ecosystems and biodiversity to ensure socio-economic benefits to the local communities whilst adhering to the 'do not harm principle' for all activities including pollution.
- Carry out demonstration activities in 3 different countries of the Danube river basin, involving and including in the consortium partners from these three countries;
- Identify areas and locations where the solutions are replicable and draw up an action plan and roadmap to replicate and scale up the ecosystem and biodiversity restoration solutions and actions.
The proposals will focus on demonstration of active and passive restoration of freshwater ecosystems, including in the transitional waters of the Danube river delta at a large scale. The demonstration activities will combine measures to increase ecosystem connectivity and ecological flow of the Danube river and/or its main tributaries and delta, improvement of protection of communities against floods using nature based solutions on the Danube river and/or its main tributaries, mitigation of the impact of droughts on freshwater ecosystems and biodiversity using nature based solutions.
To address the impact-driven approach of the Mission and the nature of Innovation Actions, proposals are expected to work with and engage at least 5 ‘associated regions’ to showcase the feasibility, replicability and scale up of the solutions developed within the projects in other areas. ‘Associated regions’ are understood as areas with ecosystems that can benefit from the demonstration activities (e.g. neighbouring regions and/or regions in a different sea basin) and/or less-developed regions, with the need to build capacity to implement the innovative solutions to restore freshwater ecosystems. The proposals should ensure that the associated regions are located in Member States/Associated countries other than those that are part of the project consortium. An “associated region” must benefit from the Financial Support to Third Parties provided under this topic only once. The partners will proactively reach out to the associated regions to enable them to follow closely the project and its demonstration activities. The projects should continuously share their outcomes and knowledge with those ‘associated regions’ and provide them with technical assistance to build capacity and to implement freshwater ecosystem restoration solutions in their territory that contribute to achieving the Mission objectives. The technical assistance to the ’associated regions’ should include the provision of technical advisory services necessary to the prepare roadmaps, plans and projects to restore freshwater ecosystems in the associated regions addressing possible barriers and showing the feasibility of implementing innovative solutions.
The maximum amount of Financial Support to Third Parties is EUR 100,000 per ’associated region’ for the entire duration of the action. Proposals should outline the selection process of the third parties to which financial support would be granted based on principles of transparency, objectivity and fairness.
The proposals are expected to integrate actions to support the social and economic transitions towards sustainable, inclusive and long term management of the restored ecosystems, including natural, social, economic and cultural elements and business models for generating revenue from the restored ecosystems and involve for that purpose local business communities, in particular SMEs, investors and other business stakeholders.
Training and communication activities towards stakeholders, including regional and local authorities from the ‘associated regions’ should be included in each proposal. Local actors, including where appropriate, the European Volunteer Corps and Mission Citizen Assemblies, should be involved in the demonstration of ecosystem restoration activities and any actions for social and economic transitions towards sustainable inclusive and long term management of the restored ecosystems, like citizen science.
The proposal may include actions to prevent and reduce pollution from different sources (such as chemicals, excess nutrients). The proposals should build on research and innovation developed in the frame of related projects in the current and previous EU framework programmes, such as Horizon2020, including Research Infrastructures and the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for the Black Sea (SRIA), LIFE and national and regional programmes in the Danube river basin as well as the activities of Water4All Partnership and Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership and the Common Maritime Agenda for the Black Sea, in particular in the framework of land-sea interactions.
The projects funded under this topic will:
- build links with other Mission activities and other relevant activities within the lighthouse and its area to maximize synergies, as well as with the European Blue Parks, other Mission lighthouses and their activities;
- build links with the Mission implementation monitoring system that will be part of the Mission Implementation Support Platform and with the Danube river basin lighthouse support facility and platform, for reporting, monitoring and coordination of all relevant implementation activities in the lighthouse area as well as with the Blue Parks technical support platform;
- support the Ocean and water knowledge system, in particular by contributing to biodiversity monitoring, modelling and knowledge creation and data.
Proposals are expected to show how their activities and results will achieve the Mission’s objectives, in line with the timeframe of the Mission phases, i.e.: by 2025 for the ‘development and piloting’ phase and 2030 for the ‘deployment and upscaling phase’.
The conditions are described in General Annex B.
The following exceptions apply: The following additional eligibility criteria apply: In addition to the standard eligibility conditions, the consortium must involve and include partners from at least three countries of the Danube river basin in which demonstration activities will be taking place. If projects use satellite-based earth observation, positioning, navigation and/or related timing data and services, beneficiaries must make use of Copernicus and/or Galileo/EGNOS (other data and services may additionally be used).
The total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 17.00 million.
The Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 8.50 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
For more information, please see here.