Bern Convention targets crimes against nature

Dams, power plants, airports: numerous complaints from nature conservation organizations against destructive projects in the Balkans

Wild river with clear water and gravel banks

Several hydropower plants are planned on the upper Neretva.

© Amel Emric
Construction Site small hydro power plant

The power plant Ulog is already under construction.

© Robert Oroz
Edi Rama gives speech at groundbreaking ceremony for Vlora airport

Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned major airport near Vlora.

At the urging of nature conservation organizations, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention took another look at various projects in the Balkans at its most recent meeting. An airport in the middle of the Narta Lagoon in Albania or a series of hydroelectric power plants on the pristine Neretva River in Bosnia-Herzegovina - numerous projects, especially on the Balkan Peninsula, are not compatible with nature and biodiversity conservation in the view of international NGOs and local actors. Together with its partners, especially from the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign, the EuroNatur Foundation has filed various complaints, some of which have been ongoing for years and have now been tightened up again.

For example, a so-called factfinding mission is now to be carried out on the Neretva River in Bosnia-Herzegovina to investigate the effects of the hydropower plants planned there. The Ulog power plant is already under construction. In Albania, the foundation stone was recently laid for the controversial airport in the Narta lagoon, an important resting place for migratory birds in the Vjosa delta. Here, too, an on-site investigation is to take place. The statement of the EU Commission in the committee meeting was clear: "Albania must implement the EU acquis if it wants to join the EU. This case shows that EU directives have not been fully respected so far."

Already open cases in northern Macedonia (hydropower projects in Mavrovo National Park, destruction of wetlands at Lake Ohrid) and Montenegro (Lake Skadar) also remain under observation of the Bern Convention.

"Some governments, such as those from Montegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, do not even consider it necessary to be present at the meetings, although cases from their countries are being negotiated. These states want to become EU members and at the same time do not take this important body seriously. The EU Commission must take note of this and take it into account," says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur.

The Bern Convention is one of the most important nature conservation agreements in Europe.

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