Activists demand European political support for a Vjosa National Park in Albania

++ The new slogan, Vjosa National Park Now, is a plea to protect Europe’s last big wild river ++

<p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>

The Vjosa visual action was carried out in four capital cities in Europe: Berlin...

© Paul Buske
<p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>

...in front of the university of Tirana...

© Adrian Guri
<p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>

...and in Paris and also in Brussels.

© Sébastien Champeaux

Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Tirana. On the occasion of this year’s World Water Day, today, several NGO’s released a series of photos capturing the words Vjosa National Park Now cloaking the foreground of globally recognised monuments and buildings in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, and Tirana. The activists behind the visual action are targeting the attention of European and Albanian politicians, urging them to declare the Vjosa in Albania Europe’s first Wild River National Park. The historical designation is of international significance as it would safeguard 300km of rivers and streams, host to over 1,100 species, many of which are threatened.

In September 2020, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced his intent to make the Vjosa a national park. However, the government has not taken any clear steps towards this designation. Plans submitted by the Albanian National Agency of Protected Areas include only minimal protection for the Vjosa, risking future hydropower construction, and falls far short of the protections inherent in a national park designation.

Olsi Nika, director of EcoAlbania, states: “We purposefully chose these sites for this action as they are comparable to how we value the Vjosa in Albania. It is unimaginable to destroy these structures in Europe’s capital cities, so why would we think differently about our pristine river that has been a part of our cultural history for thousands of years? Just ahead of the elections in Albania, we are demanding that our national government protect the Vjosa and that leading EU politicians support this initiative.”

A recent opinion poll indicated that 94 per cent of Albanian people favour establishing the Vjosa as a national park. The Vjosa National Park Now campaign has also received international support from the Awardees of the Right Livelihood Award who recently wrote an open letter to political leaders in Albania and the EU to protect the Vjosa and also from celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio.

On 4 March, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs voted to include the Vjosa in the Albanian Progress Report for 2021. According to the report, the European Parliament institution urges the Albanian government to stop hydropower development along the Vjosa River and “...to establish as soon as possible the Vjosa National Park, covering the whole length of the river.”

Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of RiverWatch, says: “There are three major reasons why we need a Vjosa National Park. First off, a national park designation offers the best protection for the river and its biodiversity. Anything other than this designation would keep the Vjosa vulnerable to future developments. Secondly, it would create a substantial income for locals from eco-tourism. And lastly, it would attract international funding to plan and operate the park. No other protection category offers those benefits.”

Across Europe, freshwater habitats are deteriorating faster than any other habitat type and are the world’s most threatened ecosystems. In Europe, there is a 93% average decline in freshwater migratory fish species, in part due to habitat destruction. This is a unique chance to place a high value on this biodiversity hotspot by preserving this intact river to benefit people, the climate, and the planet.

Annette Spangenberg, Head of Conservation at EuroNatur, adds: “This is an unparalleled opportunity to set an example within Europe and the world. Preserving this river, in its entirety, sets a new standard for what is possible in nature protection.”


Background Information:

  • The "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" campaign aims to protect rivers of high natural value in the Balkans, which are threatened by over 3,400 hydropower projects. The campaign is coordinated by the international NGOs RiverWatch and EuroNatur and is implemented jointly with partner organisations in the Balkan countries. The local partner in Albania is EcoAlbania. For more information https://balkanrivers.net/
  • Join the World Water Day virtual press conference hosted at the Brussels Press Club from 9:00-11:00 CET (link live at that time) on March 22 for the opportunity to ask questions about the visual action.
  • A six-minute film, Vjosa Forever, was released on 3 March by Patagonia, asking citizens everywhere to show their support for a Vjosa Wild River National Park.
  • The “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign is supported amongst others by the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung.


Media Contacts:
Christian Stielow, EuroNatur | christian.stielow(at)euronatur.org | +49 7732 927215
Cornelia Wieser, Riverwatch | cornelia.wieser@riverwatch.eu | +43 650 4544784
Besjana Guri, EcoAlbania | b.guri@ecoalbania.org | +355 69 2954214

 

 

How you can help

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please use your possibilities to help. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to a more livable environment.

Newsletter

Twice a month the latest information about Europe's nature - free of charge and at first hand.

News

Even one dam can destroy the river

A recently published study summarises the value of the Vjosa River system as one of the few remaining reference sites for dynamic floodplains in...

Activists demand European political support for a Vjosa National Park in Albania

++ The new slogan, Vjosa National Park Now, is a plea to protect Europe’s last big wild river ++

Nature ignored in European recovery funding, say campaign groups

EU Recovery Fundings in the wake of the Corona crisis read largely without consideration of nature and climate protection goals

Albania Faced with a Choice: National Park or Destruction of the Vjosa River

The future of Europe’s largest unspoilt river hangs in the balance

Mother bear murdered in Montenegro

Poachers in Montenegro have shot dead the mother of two young brown bear cubs - a particularly dramatic case of wildlife crime, which has seen a...

Vjosa: Environmental groups submit proposal for Europe’s first Wild River National Park

++ Because of the Albanian government's inaction, nature conservation organisations are now taking action ++ Vjosa National Park could become a...

Valuable marshes in Poland endangered by mining project

The Australian company Balamara has plans to mine for coal in the Polish region of Lubelskie. This is not only harmful to the climate, but also...

Change in government in Montenegro brings new hope for Ulcinj Salina

++ Montenegro’s new government is intending to afford effective protection to Salina Ulcinj ++ On 2nd February it is World Wetlands Day ++ Ramsar...

No green light for small hydropower in EU Finance Taxonomy

Hydropower is not a sustainable investment. EU Commission should listen to science.

Vjosa: Political game with the future of Europe´s last wild river

++ 94 % of Albanians in favour of establishing Vjosa National Park ++ IUCN confirms the potential of Vjosa River for becoming a National Park ++...

A voyage of discovery in Europe's nature

Start of “Europe’s Natural Treasures 2021” international photography competition

Small hydropower plants in the Balkans soon a thing of the past?

The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) announced Nov. 26 that starting in 2021, the government would no longer provide subsidies that support...

Protection of some primary forests announced – shortly before national elections

After years of bureaucratic burdens some iconic primary forest – such as Boia Mica valley in Fagaras Mountains – are finally protected. However,...

Wolf population in West Poland still not secure despite growth in numbers

A long-term study on the spread of wolves into West Poland, which has just been published, makes clear that, despite the continuing growth in numbers...

Digger for Ulcinj Salina ended up in the scrap metal

In 2004 EuroNatur provided a grant for a digger to carry out conservation work at Ulcinj Salina, particularly for the maintenance of dams and dykes....