Major success: River Vjosa becomes National Park

Radolfzell, Vienna, Tepelena – 15 March, 2023 At a formal ceremony in Tepelena this morning and his Minister of the Environment and Tourism Mirela Kumbaro declared the River Vjosa a Wild River National Park. As from today, the entire River Vjosa in Albania from its border with Greece to the Adriatic sea and its free flowing tributaries – a river system totalling more than 400 kilometres in length – have the very highest level of protection. This is something unique in Europe.

After more than ten years of unstinting efforts working for the preservation of one of the last wild riversin Europe, EuroNatur, Riverwatch, EcoAlbania and many other conservationists and river activists are rejoicing over this great milestone. However, the river conservationists have not yet finished.

“We have fought long and hard with our partners for this day, with court hearings, petitions and discussions with those responsible in government and with local communities. Today we can celebrate,” says Annette Spangenberg, EuroNatur’s Head of Conservation.“Now we will continue campaigning for the other free-flowing tributaries and the river delta to be given protection so that the entirety of the Vjosa’s unique river eco-system can be preserved forever.”

“This Wild River National Park is not just an important milestone for the Vjosa and Albania but for river conservation across the whole of Europe. It establishes, for the first time, a conservation concept where an entire river system is protected and not just individual sections of a river,” says Ulrich Eichelmann, head of Riverwatch. “The concept of a Wild River National Park should act as a model for other rivers in Europe, such as along the Moraca in Montenegro and the Rivers Neretva and Una in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The River Vjosa is Europe’s first Wild River National Park, but it should not be the only one. Today sees an important message going out from Albania to the whole of Europe.” 

“The declaration of Vjosa Wild River National Park is the culmination of ten years of efforts by a wide group of actors. Today, with the declaration of a national park, not only the civil society but also Albania sets a new standard in nature conservation, as for the first time around 400 km of natural river flow are protected, which is a unique initiative for Europe and the world”, says Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania.


About the River Vjosa/Aoos: The Vjosa/Aoos River is one of the last great wild rivers in Europe outside of Russia. It flows from the mountains in Greece, where it is called Aoos, to the Adriatic Sea in Albania. Together with its tributaries, the Vjosa/Aoos forms an ecosystem with a considerable level of biodiversity of both national and global significance. Yet the region also offers economic prospects. Ecotourism along the River and its tributaries is continuously growing, particularly over the last few years when the potential for activities such as rafting has been recognised and developed.

Wild River National Park: The addition of Wild River reflects the character of the protected area. This is a national park that exclusively protects rivers and does so over a large area, i.e. entire river systems. Rivers are among the most threatened habitat types worldwide. The example of migratory fish species in Europe shows how endangered they are. Since 1970, their populations (e.g. eel, grayling, river herring, sturgeon) have declined by 94 percent, mainly as a result of river straightening and dam construction.

About Save the Blue Heart of Europe: The “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign aims to protect rivers of high natural value in the Balkans, which are threatened by more than 3,400 hydropower projects. The campaign is coordinated by the international NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur and implemented jointly with partner organisations in the Balkan countries. The local partner in Albania is EcoAlbania, in Greece MedINA.


The campaign is supported amongst other by the Manfred Hermsen Foundation. The outdoor company Patagonia has also strongly supported our commitment to the Vjosa National Park. Other partners that have contributed to the fight for the protection of the Vjosa/Aoos transboundary river are IUCN ECARO, Pindos Perivallontiki and The Green Tank from Greece, the Tour du Valat, Wetlands International and the MAVA Foundation for Nature.

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Second Court session for the protected areas of category IV, Managed reserve/Nature Park

In the court room of the Administrative Apeal Court of Tirana, , during the 2nd session about the Nature reserves/Nature Park (category IV). (category IV). (c) AOS

March 2nd, 2023, Tirana.  The second court session was held today, for the Decision of the Council of Ministers (DCM) no. 60, dated 26.1.2022, “On the Proclamation of Natural Ecosystems, Natural Reserves/Managed Natural Parks (Category IV)”, in the Administrative Court of Appeal, where 11 Albanian Environmental Civil Society Organizations have sued the public authorities for the annulment of the decision of the Council of Ministers no. 59 and no. 60.

In the session, from the plaintiff side participated lawyer Franc Terihati CLE, lawyer Irena Dule Res Publica, and Besjana Shehu AOSALB, while from the defendant side, the Council of Ministers and the National Council of the Territory, no representative appeared, and no counterclaims were presented. 

So far, the process has progressed with the filing of: a) the claim-lawsuit, b) written shreds of evidence, c) the request for the specification of the object of the claim opposing the revision of the surfaces, boundaries, and status of the areas; Bredhi i Sotires, Korab-Koritnik, Qafeshtame, Syri i Kaltër, Bredhi i Kardhiqit, Gërmenj, Karaburun, Kune-Vain-Tale and Patok – Fushëkuqe – Ishëm, Shkodra Lake and the removal of 10 other areas; d) of the request for the execution of the act of exertion, e) the additional submissions related to the legitimization of non-profit organizations.

The Council of Ministers and the National Council of the Territory were also absent from this session. Also, the State Bar has submitted a request for the summons in the capacity of the third person of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the National Agency of Protected Areas. Today’s session was postponed because of the additional submissions related to the legitimization of non-profit organizations, which were filed on 23.02.2023 but not forwarded to the judge by the secretariat. Therefore, the court took them into administration to notify the Council of Ministers and the National Council of the Territory.

The next session for the Decision of the Council of Ministers (DCM) no. 60 was set for March 17 at 09:00. The date for the first court session for the Decision of the Council of Ministers (DCM) no. 59, dated 26.1.2022, “For the Approval of the Change of Status and Area of Natural Ecosystems National Park (Category II) of Environmentally Protected Areas, it was set for March 10 at 09:00.

Plaintiff organizations:

AOS-Albanian Ornithological Society


Res Publica

CLE – Centre for Legal Empoëerment

Qendra EDEN/ EDEN Center

Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania

Milieukontakt Albania (member of Milieukontakt International Netëork)

REC Albania

Qendra ACEG

Qendra Kujri


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Western Balkans: Scientists and NGO representatives call for more rivers to be protected as part of the Emerald Network

In 2011, Western Balkan countries proposed a small number of sites as part of the Europe-wide Emerald Network of protected natural areas. But too many of the region’s stunning rivers have been left unprotected – and a new proposal aims to rectify this.

Today, a group of scientists and non-governmental organisations from 11 countries have published a list of 88 rivers they consider high priority for protection, urging Western Balkan Bern Convention signatory countries to expand the Emerald Network in the region.

Established by the Council of Europe in 1989 under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), the Emerald Network is made up of areas of special conservation interest to conserve wild flora and fauna in their natural habitats.

As signatories of the Bern Convention, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia started the establishment of the Emerald Network in 2011, when they proposed a small number of sites. However, since then none of the countries have expanded their original list of sites, most sites lack legal protection under national law, management, consistent data collection, and resources, leaving most rivers and fish populations unprotected.

The list of rivers published today results from the Emerald Green seminar organised by CEE Bankwatch Network in December 2022, where participants provided scientific data on fish species and habitats.

As a global biodiversity hotspot, the Western Balkans boasts exceptional freshwater diversity. The region’s extensive mountains, rivers, lakes, and coastlines are home to numerous endangered species and important habitats with numerous endemic species that can be found nowhere else. Compared to the rest of Europe, most of the region’s rivers are in good or pristine condition, and many are ideal candidates for protection, as recognized by the priority list published today.

“Rivers in the Balkans are amongst the most threatened ecosystems, and at the same time they represent a biodiversity hotspot. In this regard, it is worth including them in a legally protected network”, Olsi Nika, Executive Director of EcoAlbania


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51 civil society organizations and academic institutions in a joint declaration for protected areas

This is a moment that shapes the future of Protected Areas in Albania where 51 Civil Society Organizations, national and international, operating in the field of nature protection and academic-research institutions of natural sciences, joined forces and efforts towards an unwavering comprehensive and resilient commitment which aims to influence the political-making and decision-making instances so that environmental protection has priority in their agenda.

More specifically, to (i) halt inappropriate decision-making in crucial areas of biodiversity, ii) fight environmental crime, (iii) increase transparency and stability in decision-making; (iv) increase the professional capacities in terms of monitoring, study, and protection of nature in line institutions; (v) work towards monitoring and assessing the status of habitats and species of national/international importance, as well as (vi) to further strengthen cooperation with Civil Society for more sustainable decision-making.

We strongly support and believe in the principles of freedom, the rule of law, democratic values, and the territorial, social, and ecological integrity of Protected Areas. We strongly oppose any unilateral action or attempt to change the status and reduce the surface of PAs, the stability, and the prosperity of natural resources. Therefore, the 51 organizations and partners will continue to act together and with determination and commitment to advance these principles in the country and beyond, respecting the law at the national level and international conventions. Individually and collectively, we will further enhance our cooperation with multilateral institutions by reinforcing our common priorities to improve the well-being of natural resources, strengthen the legal framework and environmental sustainability of the PAs, and improve and share the common vision toward comprehensive and transparent environmental decision-making.

Representatives of Academic institutions:

1) Prof.Dr. Ferdinand Bego – Biology Department  – Faculty of natural Sciences 

2) Dr. Ina Vejsiu – Vice Dean, for Public Realtions and Institutional Cooperation – Faculty of Forestry Sciences

 3) Dr. Gentjan Hykaj – Environment Department  – Polis University

Albanian Ornithological Society EcoAlbania Res Publica Co-PLAN Institute for Habitat Development VIS AlbaniaCOSV – Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo CISP Sviluppo dei Popoli @GO2ALBANIA CLE – Centre for Legal Empowerment Universiteti Polis Fakulteti Shkencave te Natyres (F.SH.N) Qendra EDEN/ EDEN Center Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania CELIM Shqipëri Milieukontakt Albania (member of Milieukontakt International Network) REC Albania WWF Adria Qendra ACEG Shpendët e Shqipërisë / Birds of Albania North Green Association Well Point AllGreen All Green Centre Agri-En Environmental and Territorial Management Institute ICLA INLSH AgroPuka Shoqata Alpin Albanian Shkodra Lake FORUMNew Bridges NGO Forumi i Mendimit të LirëH2H_Foundation

Shoqata Mkezh Education Development and Employment Center

GreenVision Shoqata “qsnnn” Fushe-Arrez Ekologet per Rajonin Nisma e Luleve Mjedisi & Komuniteti

Youth For Democracy Movement; MENV Group Shoqata CERCI Federata e Perdorusve te Pyjeve Qarku Gjirokasterqarku kukes Organizata Miqesia Ulez EcoPartners for Sustainable Development New Impact Association Mbrojtja e Mjedisit dhe Zhvillimi i Turizmit Green Adventures Into Albania Klubi alpin bjeshkatar “Struga”


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