On Tuesday 4th October the final approval of the ‘International Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park’ by the EU Council of Ministers was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (EU). The decision was unanimously agreed upon by all sides, thus concluding the official process at EU level that will allow this vital Agreement to be put into practice.
It should be remembered that the Agreement was signed on 2nd February 2010, on the occasion of World Wetlands Day. Today, 20 months later, the Agreement remains inoperative due to the labyrinthine bureaucracy that has presided over its approval process. Final endorsement by the European Union now gives the three countries the green light to begin the ratification process at a national level. More specifically, the Agreement must now be ratified by the national parliaments, in order to clear the way for the comprehensive commitment of all parties and finally bring its provisions into full effect.
It is with pleasure and optimism that the Society for the Protection of Prespa welcomes the decision of the EU Council of Ministers and now calls on the three states to expedite the ratification process at a national level and fulfill the obligations they undertook as signatories to the Agreement in 2010 to build a common future in the Prespa basin. The area’s problems need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and any bureaucratic delay puts the region at risk. Bringing the Agreement into operation is the only way to both effectively protect the natural environment and develop the region economically, through cross-border collaboration and by dealing with the issues within a unified framework.
The SPP’s Policy and Sustainable Development Coordinator, Ms Vivi Roumeliotou, stressed: “The expectations which were raised a year and a half ago, when the Ministers of the three countries and the European Commissioner came to Prespa to sign the Prespa Park Agreement, must not be disappointed. Now that the bureaucratic hurdle of EU approval has been overcome, the three states are able, and obliged, to bring bills before their national parliaments to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible. Local organizations have repeatedly indicated their readiness to work together and carry out the agreed commitments.”