World Wetlands Day 2010 celebrated in Prespes through the adoption of a Trilateral International Agreement

On February 2nd, 2010, the World Wetlands Day, a major step in the conservation and wise use of the Prespa Region was taken through the signing of an International Agreement by the Ministers of Environment of Albania, Greece, the FYR of Macedonia and the EU, as seen in the picture below. The location of the Prespa Lakes and surrounding region, which is shared between the three countries, coupled with its environmental value in terms of biodiversity, natural resources, natural beauty and cultural background make the conservation of the area a difficult but necessary task.

The Albanian, FYROM, Greek and EU Ministers.

The signing of the Agreement took place on the Greek side of the Prespa Region, in the village of Pyli and was attended by government officials of all three countries and members of the civil society. More specifically, the agreement was signed by Ms Tina Birbili, the Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Mr Fatmir Mediu the Albanian Minister of Environment, Forests and Waters Administration, Nexhati Jakupi the Macedonian Minister of Environment and Physical Planning and Mr Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for Environment.

Also present were the Mayors of the bordering municipalities Mr Nalpantidis of the Municipality of Prespa in Greece, Mr Themelko of Liqenas in Albania, Mr Volkanovski of Resen in the FYR of Macedonia, as well as other delegates from the respective Ministries and local authorities. The event saw the presence of many international and national NGO’s and environmental organizations like the UNDP- Albania and the UNDP- FYR of Macedonia, WWF International, WWF Greece, the Greek Ornithological Society, the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) who pioneered the Agreement, and others. The Ramsar Convention of Wetlands was represented by Mr Tobias Salathe seen in the picture below, and the MedWet Initiative by Mr. Nejib Benessaiah, the Interim Coordinator.

Mr Tobias Salathé, Senior Advisor for Europe to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The tri-lateral Prespa Agreement comes to strengthen and complement the first Joint Declaration signed by the Prime Ministers of Greece, Albania and the FYR of Macedonia o­n the 2nd of February, 2000, again on World Wetlands Day, which established the Transboundary Prespa Park.

The Transboundary Prespa Park is the first protected area across borders ever to be established in the Balkans and in the nine years of its existence has achieved remarkable progress not o­nly towards environmental protection but also towards the improvement of the inhabitants’ living standards. However, until now the Prespa Park Coordination Committee lacked the institutional power which is imperative for effective decision making. Now, with the signing of the tri-lateral International Agreement the three states are legally bound to establish a permanent cooperation in order to develop a common strategy and implement measures for the protection of the environment but also for the development of human activities in the region, like agriculture, fishing, tourism, infrastructure development etc. This agreement gives priority to matters of high importance like water management, in line with the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.The signing of this agreement also has symbolic meaning and delivers a message of hope through regional cooperation and peaceful coexistence in the politically unstable area of the Balkans.

The Society of the Protection of Prespa (SPP), which is the main supporter of the Prespa Park Coordination Committee, and WWF highlighted the need of common management by the three bordering states for the effective and sustainable management of the region’s natural resources.

In MedWet we support this agreement and the continuing efforts of the civil society, the inhabitants and the governments of the three countries and hope it will have a positive environmental and social impact in the region. We hope that Transboundary Prespa Park will further improve and support the region and will continue to play a pilot role of inter-regional, transboundary cooperation for the whole Mediterranean Basin.