Crucial meeting at the Prespa Lakes
In spite of various difficulties and broader political disagreements, the collaboration among Albania, the FYR of Macedonia and Greece on the Prespa Lakes has been maintained for eight years now, becoming stronger with time. Established in 2000 by a joint declaration of the three prime ministers and facilitated by Ramsar and its MedWet Initiative, the Prespa Park process has been evolving with positive results. Progress has been strengthened by the implementation of a large GEF/UNDP project in the area, which focuses both on better management of the rich biodiversity of the region, but also on the improvement of the quality of life of the inhabitants through the promotion of sustainable activities.
This was evident during the 11th regular meeting of the Prespa Park Co-ordination Committee (PPCC), held in a new visitor centre in the Greek part of Prespa on 21-22 November 2008. Representing the three governments, municipalities and local NGOs, this body has been the key driver of the collaboration process and the promoter of the GEF/UNDP project, acting now as the project oversight committee (POC).
Among the positive developments examined during the meeting were the signature of a memorandum of collaboration among the three local municipalities, the initiation of trilateral working groups on spatial planning and water management, advancement of the monitoring of key parameters undertaken by the Society for the Protection of Prespa (1999 Ramsar laureate) and Tour du Valat, as well as actions promoting sustainable use of resources on both the transboundary and the local levels, especially in agriculture and tourism.
Challenges were also discussed, concerning mainly the improvement of the status and operation of the PPCC and of its secretariat (currently ensured by SPP).This has become a necessity so that the PPCC can respond efficiently to the requirements for the guidance of the GEF/UNDP project. Various options were proposed and they will be debated at an extraordinary meeting of the Committee in February 2009.
Since its establishment, MedWet has been an active member of the PPCC, contributing to its proceedings as an independent international observer. It was represented in the recent meeting by its senior advisor Thymio Papayannis.
-- Thymio Papayannis