REReP Task Force meeting, Cavtat, 6-7 July 2000
Environmental Reconstruction in Southeastern Europe
After the Kosovo war, the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe was established, guided by three steering groups (called working tables) on democratization and human rights, security issues, and economic reconstruction, development and cooperation. Amongst several activities of the latter figures the Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme for SE Europe (REReP). This programme is guided by a Task Force consisting of the Ministries of Environment of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and the FYR of Macedonia, including authorities of Montenegro and Kosovo, plus observers from donor countries, international organizations, and NGOs. The Task Force is co-chaired by the European Commission (Jean-François Vestrynge, Deputy Director General of DG ENV) and the FYR of Macedonia (Minister Toni Popovski). The secretariat of the REReP Task Force is provided by the Regional Environmental Centre (REC) for Central and Eastern Europe with a head office in Szentendre (Hungary) and several country offices.
The REReP Task Force facilitates investments coordinated within the Stability Pact framework, notably through quick start priority projects falling under five programme components: institutional strengthening and policy development, environmental civil society building, combating war damage, cross border projects, and national and local environmental projects. The Task Force held its initial meeting in Cavtat (Croatia) on 6-7 July 2000, to clarify the role of the different actors and to review and monitor progress with the preparation, funding and implementation of the quick-start priority projects. On this occasion, an ad hoc Biodiversity Group was set up to promote biodiversity objectives and action through the REReP and to provide technical assistance to the Task Force. Currently, the group consists of IUCN (chair), REC, WWF, UNEP (Europe), Avalon Foundation, Ramsar (MedWet) and a SE European NGO coalition. Experts from SE European countries administrations and scientific communities are invited to join the group.
The following specific projects are of most interest to the MedWet Initiative: The Biodiversity Group plans to organize a regional biodiversity forum meeting in 2001, with initial financial support from the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). The Forum is intended to streamline national activities to meet the obligations of different multilateral environmental agreements ratified by SE European countries, notably in view of the Conferences of Contracting Parties of Ramsar, Biodiversity and CITES, the ministerial conference on the "Environment for Europe" in Kyiv (Ukraine), the World Parks Congress and the Rio+10 conference - all to be held in 2002.
During spring 2000, the REC launched a project to promote biodiversity networks and exchanges in the countries of SE Europe (also with funds from the SDC). This includes pilot sites for cross-border projects of key biodiversity interest, notably the lower Neretva floodplain, shared between Croatia (a test site of the MedWet2 project) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (current LIFE project, cf. article in MedWet Newsletter 13), as well as Skadar/Shkodra lake and Buna river, shared between Montenegro and Albania. In this context, it is worth noting the "Comprehensive joint water environment protection programme for the Adriatic-Ionian region", launched in May 2000 in Split (Croatia), to enhance the implementation of the UN-ECE conventions on transboundary water courses and international lakes (Helsinki) and EIAs in a transboundary context (Espoo), the Barcelona and Ramsar conventions, by focusing on transboundary wetland sites.
During its first meeting in Cavtat, the Task Force took note of the role that the Ramsar Bureau has played, through the MedWet Initiative, in supporting the development of the Prespa Park, declared by the Prime Ministers of Albania, Greece and the FYR of Macedonia on World Wetlands Day 2000 (2 February).
-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Bureau