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The Begginings

In February of 2000, the Prime Ministers of Albania, FYR-Macedonia, and Greece gathered in the village of Aghios Germanos and issued a joint declaration declaring that “ 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 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.” The Declaration declares the Prespa Lakes and their surround catchment as “`Prespa Park’ … the first trans-boundary protected area in South Eastern Europe…” 

The Declaration also promised “enhanced cooperation among competent authorities in our countries with regard to environmental matters.  In this context, joint actions would be considered in order to a) maintain and protect the unique ecological values of the “Prespa Park”, b) prevent and or reverse the causes of its habitat degradation, c) explore appropriate management methods for the sustainable use of the Prespa Lakes water, and d) to spare no efforts so that the “Prespa Park” becomes a model of its kind as well as an additional reference to the peaceful collaboration among our countries”

The initiative which led to the Prime Ministers’ Declaration was very top-down and the participation of local stakeholders around the lakes basin in this decision was initially very little.  And yet, the declaration successfully laid the foundation for the significant trans-boundary work that has followed. 

First, the three Ministers of the Environment established the Prespa Park Coordination Committee (PPCC) as a non-legal entity whose members are appointed by the three Ministers of Environment.  Membership of the PPCC is comprised of the following from each of the three countries:  1 MoEFWM representative, one NGO, and one local government representative and a permanent MedWet observer.  Subsequently, the PPCC has met semi-annually since 2001.  The PPCC has no budget from the three countries and indeed, the three governments have no legal commitment to support the PPCC, financial or otherwise. PPCC operations so far have been supported by ad hoc funding provided by the Greek Government, as well as occasionally by KfW and GTZ, while the operation of the PPCC Secretariat has been largely supported by WWF-Greece, which has funded the SPP’s hosting of the Secretariat.

Second, despite funding problems, the PPCC and its members have moved forward in developing trans-boundary cooperation in the Prespa Basin.  The biggest accomplishment of this collaboration was the production in 2002 of a “Strategic Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park” as a first step in the development of a common vision for the conservation and sustainable development of the Prespa Basin.  The Strategic Action Plan was prepared with Greek Government funding.  More specifically, the aim of the present Strategic Action Plan is: 

•     to facilitate, provide and share information with stakeholders; 

•     to outline the Prespa Park objectives in order to facilitate future discussions, and;  

•     to describe in the clearest possible way the institutional, economic, management initiatives and procedures that should be taken in order to enable the accomplishment of these objectives.

The process of developing the Action Plan involved working groups from each of the three littoral states.  The Action Plan was adopted by the PPCC in 2004.  Although no formal commitments have been made to the Plan by the three governments or by any funding agencies, PPCC members have been actively pursuing funding for implementation of individual activities called for under the Plan. 

PDF B Phase of the Prespa Regional Project

In June 2003, the Prespa Park Co-ordination Committee (PPCC) was granted initial funding (Programme Development Facility - PDF B phase) from GEF, in order to undertake preparatory activities, which will enable the development of a multiannual full GEF project titled: “Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Transboundary Prespa Park Region”.

The PDF B phase was of one-year duration and necessary for undertaking or completing essential baseline studies, which addressed scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of the full-GEFproject. The PDF phase costed approximately $820,000 and was co-funded mainly by UNDP and KfW. The Governments of Greece, Albania and the FYR of Macedonia and local stakeholders, such as the Municipalities and the NGOs involved in the region also contributed to this phase.

The specific PDF B objectives were: i) to elaborate the technical basis of the full-sized project; ii) to establish the project’s management structure and coordination mechanisms; and iii) to put in place the stakeholder participatory mechanisms required for the successful future implementation of the full-sized project.

For the implementation of the project Project Implementation Units were set in each country headed by  National Project Coordinator. An International Project Manager was hired to overseeing and co-ordinate the work in the three countries. Finally, the PPCC had a central role in the undertaking of all PDF B activities.

UNDP GEF Prespa Regional Project

The UNDP GEF Prespa Regional Project is a multiannual joint project for the Prespa Park, which aims to promote integrated ecosystem management of the wider region with the participation of all stakeholders, and by enhancing cooperation among the three participating countries. The project wishes to promote a common strategic approach through the implementation of the main proposals included in the SAP, and, therefore is considered to be significant for the sustainable development of the Prespa region. The project is developed from the findings and priorities of the PDF B phase. 

The UNDP GEF Prespa Regional project titled “Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Transboundary Prespa Park Region”, has an estimated budget of $3.5m and a duration of five years. The main objectives of the project can be summarised to the following: 1) protection of ecosystem values through effective land-use planning, protected area management and integrated water resources management; 2) enhancement of awareness and understanding of the ecological values of the region among the public at all levels; 3) creation of an enabling environment for sustainable development in the region through appropriate policies, incentives and opportunities, and inter-sectoral co-ordination; 4) building up mechanisms for transboundary co-operation through the strengthening of the PPCC and its Secretariat and exploring options for the establishment of a more permanent regional commission.

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