Preserving World Heritage in Southeastern Europe

Preserving World Heritage in Southeastern Europe

1 December 2006

Managing natural World Heritage sites and cultural landscapes in Southeastern Europe

By adopting Resolution IX.5 at COP9 in Kampala, the Ramsar Contracting Parties reiterated the need for the Ramsar Convention to develop synergies with other organizations dealing with biological diversity. When it comes to specific wetland and Ramsar sites, this means particularly working with the UNESCO programme of Man and the Biosphere and the World Heritage Convention. Cooperation with the former, regarding Ramsar sites and Biosphere Reserves, was a particular focus of an international workshop in Venice (in November 2005) on "Practical implications of international conventions on wetland management". Since 1999, a memorandum of understanding guides the cooperation of the World Heritage and Ramsar Conventions, in particular concerning wetland sites listed under both conventions.

Osnabrück symposium, October 2006

An occasion to further substantiate Ramsar cooperation with the World Heritage Convention was a recent expert symposium, held in Osnabrück, Germany, 16-18 October 2006, focusing on establishing and improving management capacities for natural World Heritage sites and cultural landscapes in Southeast Europe, organized by the World Heritage Centre, the Bellagio Forum and the Italian SiTi Institute.

Through a series of presentations and discussions the 30 expert participants tackled key questions on how management needs of SE European World Heritage sites can best be addressed. Ramsar's input to this symposium was provided by Thymio Papayannis, secretary of the Culture Working Group, and the undersigned, who stressed that Ramsar's toolkit (2006 edition), consisting of 17 Handbooks on Wise Use of Wetlands, can contribute many solutions to the seminar's theme. The individual contributions can be found at

Southeastern European countries (i.e., Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) have designated 42 sites for the Ramsar List. However, most of them have still to elaborate and implement a national network of Ramsar sites relevant for the conservation of global biodiversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and services, as outlined in Ramsar Handbook 14.

The most prominent wetland ecosystems in southeastern Europe are lakes; e.g. Butrint (Ramsar listed with cultural World Heritage inside), Plitvice (a natural World Heritage site), Skadar (Ramsar listed), Ludas (Ramsar listed), Ohrid, Prespa (partly Ramsar listed), Volvi, Koronia, Vistonis (all Ramsar listed); river floodplains and deltas; e.g. the Srebarna World Heritage and Ramsar site on the Danube, the Danube Delta (Ramsar listed and a World Heritage in Romania) as well as important sites along the Drava, Mura, Sava, Tisza (Ramsar sites in Hungary), Siret, Prut (Ramsar site in Moldova), Dniestr (Ramsar sites in Moldova and Ukraine), Neretva (Ramsar sites in Croatia and Bosnia & Hrezegovina), Axios, Loudias, Aliakmon, Evros and Nestos rivers (several Ramsar sites in Greece), as well as coastal lagoons of Messolonghi (Ramsar site), Karavasta (Ramsar site), Narta, Burgas (Ramsar sites), Durankulak (Ramsar site), Razim and Sinoie (Ramsar sites). Coastal marine and island sites, karst and underground areas, mountain wetlands and peatlands play also an important role, although not yet Ramsar listed.

Wetland management cannot be dissociated from the wise use of the wider landscape in the catchment basin of which a wetland forms part. Often such catchments are shared between different countries situated up and downstream or on left and right river banks. Therefore, coherent ecosystem management for human well-being, biodiversity conservation and maintaining ecosystem services and cultural benefits depends on international coordination and transborder cooperation. The Ohrid lake region with its cultural and historical aspect and its natural environment is a mixed World Heritage site on its Macedonian side. This should be extended to include the Albanian side and Ramsar listing. The same applies for the Prespa Park, not yet listed in its Albanian part.

The results of this opening symposium of the World Heritage programme for SE Europe will form the basis of three training seminars for site managers in early 2007: 1) on managing natural values at World Heritage sites, with a focus on boundaries and buffer zones (14-16 March 2007 at Skocjan Caves World Heritage and Ramsar site, Slovenia), 2) on managing cultural landscapes (18-20 April 2007 at Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre WH site, Italy) and 3) in May 2007 on participatory management at Plitvice Lakes WH site in Croatia. The goal of this programme is to begin to build a body of knowledge and experience on management frameworks for WH sites around the world. Further documentation will be available at

The seminar took place in the premises of the German Federal Environment Foundation (DBU), a model building of an environment-friendly and resource saving construction that produces its own solar electricity. DBU was established by the German Parliament with the goal to promote innovative projects in the fields of environmental technology and research, nature conservation and environmental communication and cultural aspects. Its main focus lies in Germany, but it supports many international projects in Central and Eastern Europe (

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar