Blue Heart in the European Parliament

On Wednesday 27th June, there was a screening of the documentary film “Blue Heart” in the European Parliament in Brussels. In the subsequent debate between politicians and river conservationists, there was an expression of a common will to protect Europe’s last great wild rivers in the Balkans.

Thomas Waitz, Green MEP, invited politicians, river conservationists and media representatives to the European Parliament in Brussels. © Jason Alden/Patagonia
EuroNatur CEO Gabriel Schwaderer outlines the threats to the Balkan rivers posed by the massive expansion of hydroelectric power. © Jason Alden/Patagonia
United for the Blue Heart of Europe (left to right): Ryan Gellert (Patagonia), Trifon Murataj (resident of Kutë), Igor Vejnovic (Bankwatch), Gabriel Schwaderer (EuroNatur), Mihela Hladin Wolfe (Patagonia) © Jason Alden/Patagonia

What role can the European Union play to protect the rivers of the Balkans whilst at the same time ensuring an energy supply for the region? This was the central question in the debate in the European Parliament on 27th June which the MEP Thomas Waitz had tabled.

There was a general consensus that it was small hydroelectric power plants, particularly, which cause considerable ecological damage, whilst, however, making an extremely small contribution to the energy supply. Instead of promoting the construction of further plants, there should be improvements in energy efficiency and a reduction in grid losses, in order to solve the supply problems of the region.

The MEPs and the members of the Commission were moved, not only by the film “Blue Heart”, but also by the stirring speech of Trifon Murataj. This resident of the Albanian village of Kutë on the River Vjosa made it very clear how much the lives of the local population depend on their undeveloped rivers, and how dramatic the consequences for them would be, if dams were to be built there. “We want to live like our ancestors, perhaps a little better, but we want to continue to work our fields and continue to swim in our river, the Vjosa.”

The MEPs declared that they took very seriously the concerns of local residents and would press the case with those responsible in the Balkan states. It was important, according to Hans Stielstra of the European Commission, to avoid the EU’s past mistakes, in which almost every river was dammed.

 

Find out more on the campaign "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" and around the documentary film “Blue Heart”.

Read here Trifon Murataj’s moving speech.

 

 

 

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