Preserving the last wild river in Europe: Political Opportunity Structure and the Vjosa River Protection Campaign in Albania.

In his master’s thesis on the political implications of campaigning for a Vjosa National Park, Christian Puecker elaborates the difficulties and obstacles of political actions in Albania. The thesis focuses on a study of the sociopolitical engagement of scientists, the media, and civil society, contextualizing it within the theoretical concept of “political opportunity structure” (POS) and analyzing the progress of this political movement for the environmental protection of the Vjosa river.

Puecker highlights the value of the protection of the Vjosa River due to its uniqueness as Europe’s last wild river and its ecological importance as a habitat for a variety of endemic species, outlining the major interest of the Balkan rivers project “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” in the Vjosa. The supporters of the protection of the river and its tributaries are campaigning against the construction of hydropower dams along the Vjosa by demanding the establishment of a “Wild River National Park”, which would be a unique project in Europe. 


Ultimately, Puecker establishes that the social groups campaigning for the protection of the Vjosa “face significant difficulties in participating and influencing the decision-making processes” (p. 70). In order to increase the opportunities for organization’s engagements, Puecker proposes to utilize channels such as elite political allies, the judiciary system, as well as taking advantage of already existing lobbies in science, media, and international politics.