The Establishment of the Prespa Park
The Prespa Park is the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans. It was established in February 2000 with a joint Declaration by the Prime Ministers of Greece, Albania and FYROM, following a proposal from the Society for the Protection of Prespa and WWF Greece.
Prespa as a whole is a globally unique natural area due to its geomorphology, its rich ecology, and its biodiversity. It is a single catchment basin, which to be effectively protected requires a joint management policy from the three states which share it. The Prespa Park offers a basis for such collaboration between Greece, Albania and FYROM, providing an opportunity for communication, dialogue and the coordination of activities for the protection and sustainable development of the area.
In accordance with the Prime Ministerial Declaration, this collaboration has three broad aims: to safeguard the natural and cultural values of the Prespa basin with the participation of the local communities; to promote the economic and social welfare of the residents; and to strengthen peace, friendship and collaboration amongst the three peoples.
The Operation of the Park
A few months after the three Prime Ministers made their Declaration a trilateral Prespa Park Coordination Committee (PPCC) was established, in order to better organise and promote projects for the protection and sustainable development of the area. The committee is a ten-member body, which includes representatives from central government (Ministry of the Environment), local government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the three countries which border the lakes, as well as a permanent observer from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet). The members of the Coordination Committee meet twice a year in Prespa, in each of the three countries in turn.
To see the reports of the committee meetings click here.
During its meetings the Coordination Committee discusses issues which concern Prespa and its residents, and plans projects that focus on the well-balanced protection and environmentally friendly development of the basin as a whole (www.prespapark.org).
With the passing of the years, the views of the three sides on important issues have converged and have formed a consensus on questions such as water management that previously would have been difficult even to discuss. Many local bodies collaborate on transboundary programmes that further the aims of the Prespa Park, while international funding organisations provide substantial economic support. An important programme which the international community supports in the Prespa Park is the “Integrated Management of Ecosystems in the Prespa Basin in Albania, FYROM and Greece – GEF Programme” (2006-2011).
For all the progress, however, the lack of formal state commitment for the content and structure of trilateral collaboration, which is indispensable for decision-making, hindered the Coordination Committee’s work. For exactly this reason, since 2004, the PPCC lobbied for a trilateral agreement to be signed at a high level. This goal bore fruit on 2nd February 2010, World Wetlands Day and the10th anniversary of the Park. On that day, the “International Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Region” was signed by the Environment Ministers of the three countries and the EU, paving the way for a new era for the Transboundary Prespa Park. Under this agreement the three states are now legally bound to establish permanent structures for collaboration in order to develop a joint strategy and implement measures both for the protection of the natural environment and the human activities in the region such as farming, fishing, tourism and infrastructure development. Likewise, this agreement places priority on issues of paramount importance such as water management. This includes the development of plans for integrated management of the transboundary water basin, as directed under the European Water Framework Directive, and the formation of a specialist working group to effectively move forward on this critical issue as soon as possible.