An Integrated Protection of the Transboundary Prespa Region
The establishment of a trilateral UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Prespa Lake will be the subject of the upcoming Regional Conference organized by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MoEPP) from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in cooperation with UNESCO, UNDP, KfW and the Galicica National Park, and with the involvement of the tri-lateral Prespa Park Management Committee.
The Prespa Lakes and their surrounding catchment are unique for their geomorphology, their ecological wealth, and their biodiversity, which gives the area significant international importance. The area provides habitat for the conservation of various and rare species of flora and fauna and offer refuge for the migratory bird populations. They constitute as well a much-needed nesting place for many species of birds threatened with extinction. Thus the conservation and protection of an ecosystem of such importance not only renders a service to Nature, but it also creates opportunities for the economic development of the adjacent areas that belong to the three countries (Albania, Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Furthermore, the long history of the human presence in the area proves the compatibility of traditional activities and knowledge, with the conservation of nature.
Sharing the above-described view in 2000, the trilateral declaration to establish the Prespa Park for the protection of the region had been signed by the 3 countries. Ever since then the concerned governments adjacent to the lake basin have been working on the protection of the Prespa region within their national boundaries. The Prespa Park Coordination Committee (PPCC) was a vital instrument over all this years and was transformed into the Prespa Park Management Committee (PPMC) with the signature of the Trilateral Agreement in February 2010. This agreement does give clear directions for the future development of the Prespa Park, defines the members and terms of work of the PPMC and obliges the state parties to realize an office for the secretariat (the Greek government takes over this obligation for the first time).
A number of projects by international donors have supported them on their endeavours to preserve the natural ecosystems and cultural values of the region. Two of these projects that contribute to the development of the region around Prespa Lake are about to be accomplished and can look back on valuable experience in piloting management planning and modern Protected Area management in the area.
The trilateral agreement signed by the environmental ministers of Albania, Greece and FYR Macedonia in February 2010 and the establishment of the permanently standing Prespa Park Management Committee provides a legal and institutional base for exploration of the establishment of a transboundary protected area in the form of a UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
The planned regional conference wants to give the opportunity to look back on experience of conservation work in the Prespa region, to inform about the instrument of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and discuss its applicability for the Prespa region. A transboundary biosphere reserve at Prespa Lake would provide the needed umbrella for the protected areas and conservation efforts in the region. The outcomes will provide valuable input to the discussion process led in the Prespa Park Management Committee. In course of the conference governments should be encouraged to give clear commitments to the long-term protection and transboundary development of the region.