Cross-border cooperation between Greece and Albania: Towards a more effective management of the Vjosë-Aoos Water Basin.

Vlorë, November 10, 2023. After a successful visit to Ioannina in July of this year, we welcomed in Vlora the Greek delegation consisting of the Prefect of Ioannina Mr. Alexandros Kahrimanis, the mayor of the Municipality of Konica Mr. Nikolaos Eksarxos, the mayor of the municipality of Zagoria, Mr. George Soukoubelos, as well as heads of regional and central agencies, directly involved in the management of water resources. The delegation was welcomed by representatives of Albanian institutions: Prefect of the Vlorë District Mr. Flamur Mamaj, Prefect of the Gjirokastër District Mr. Odise Kote, vice mayor of the Vlorë municipality Mrs. Irena Toshkallari as well as representatives from the municipalities of Fier, Përmet and Selenica.

The arrival of Greek counterparts in Albania follows efforts to strengthen cross-border cooperation in the most effective and sustainable management of the Vjosë-Aoos Water Basin. In this context, both exchange visits have been focused on the identification and mapping of institutions engaged in water governance, both for the Albanian and Greek sides, as well as the recognition of the legal framework and their role in water governance.

Also, these visits have enabled the exchange of information on the concrete and current commitments of each party in terms of planning and addressing water-related issues. Specifically, the Water Resources Management Agency (WRMA) presented progress on the process of drafting the Vjosa Water Basin management plan, while an update was made by the Decentralized Agency regarding the review of the Epirus basin management plan. Representatives from the Greek partner organization MedINA raised concerns about the small HPPs on the Greek side and their potential pressures or threats on the Vjosa River.

The cross-border aspect of the Vjosa River was also addressed in relation to the management of the “Vjosa River National Park”, newly joined to the network of protected areas in Albania. While the Ministry of Tourism and Environment is working on the drafting of the management plan and the master plan for the development of tourism, the need for natural conservation measures and ecological processes on the Greek side arose as a necessity.

The participating parties discussed the concrete terms of the cooperation between the two parties, which aims to materialize next year with the drafting and approval by both parties of a cross-border action plan. During the meeting, bilateral cooperation was necessary in addressing needs and challenges such as: collection, storage and exchange of information on data and scientific studies, data on water quality, tourism development and agriculture as well as hydropower development.