Prespa Park cooperation a decade in the making
On World Wetlands Day 2000, the Prime Ministers of Albania, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia came together to declare their resolution to establish a transboundary “Prespa Park” for the benefits of the local people and the unique biodiversity in the water catchment basin of the Prespa lakes, shared by the three countries. The Ramsar Secretary General paid tribute to this significant event and acknowledged the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) and WWF Greece for their preparatory work. Following the Ministerial Declaration, a trilateral Prespa Park Coordination Committee was set up, working on the implementation of the principles adressed in the Declaration, developing a strategic plan for the basin, and overseeing major activities financed through a GEF project and other donors. Since its establishment, the Committee is supported by the Society for the Protection of Prespa (www.spp.gr), one of the first recipients of the Ramsar Award in 1999, which continues to play a major role in the Prespa basin to date.
Recently, on 27 November 2009, the Prime Ministers of the three countries met again in the Prespa basin: now Sali Berisha, George Papandreou and Nikola Gruevski, who had replaced their predecessors of the year 2000. They decided that on the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Prespa Park, on 2 February 2010, a specific “Agreement on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Area” should be signed. Accordingly, a trilateral ceremony took place in the new visitor centre of Pyli at the Greek shores of the Small Prespa lake. And the new Agreement was signed by the Environment Ministers Fatmir Mediu, Ms Konstantina Birbili and Nexhati Jakupi, as well as by the European Commissioner Stavros Dimas, thus underlining the European importance of the transboundary area.
The signing ceremony took place under the benevolent and watchful eye, and with the congratulations and encouragements by the Ramsar Secretariat. Indeed, the new Agreement is a significant step forward (cf. text attached). It sets out the necessary actions to lay the ground for an effective conservation of the Prespa ecosystem as a basis for the sustainable development of the area. Ramsar believes that the principles and mechanisms of cooperation spelt out in the Agreement may well inspire the managers of other transboundary wetland ecosystems. And as a wish for the future, we hope that the Albanian authorities will soon designate their part of the catchment basin for the Ramsar List, and that the two neighbours will extend their existing Ramsar sites to coincide with the Prespa catchment basin and Park boundaries. This would open the way for a trilateral designation of the Prespa Park as the thirteenth shared wetland area on the list of transboundary Ramsar sites.
L.t.r.: Ministers Fatmir Mediu (AL), Konstantina Birbili (GR), Nexhati Jakupi (MK) and Commissioner Stavros Dimas (EU)
The EU-funded water-level regulation gate of the Smaller Prespa lake, famous for its pelican colonies.
Look over the extensive reedbeds of the Smaller Prespa lake (Mikri Prespa) to the Mount Pelister National Park (MK)
-- Tobias Salathe, Ramsar