The European Parliament calls for a National Park for Vjosa and to stop hydropower projects

Press release from EcoAlbania, RiverWatch and Euronatur.

Tirana, Vienna, Radofzell, 17.02.2017. In the European Parliament’s enlargement report, the Parliament explicitly criticizes the Albanian Government regarding its policies on hydro-energy. At the center of his criticism are the hydropower projects in Vjosa. The European parliamentarians specifically request that the construction of these hydropower plants not be continued and that a national park be created along the entire course of the river instead. (see below no. 32).

Such a park of a wild river would be the first in Europe and would not only preserve the longevity of Vjosa but would provide well-being to the inhabitants of the valley”, said Olsi Nika, coordinator of the campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe” from EcoAlbania. Meanwhile, the Mayors of the municipalities of the valley have expressed themselves in favor of the declaration of the Vjosa National Park and oppose the construction of hydropower plants.

Vjosa (c) G. Subic

The report, drawn up under the direction of German parliamentarian Knut Fleckenstein, also calls for improving the quality of Environmental Impact Assessment reports according to EU standards. (see below 31). These reports are of low quality, where mainly the impacts of hydropower plants are not done properly or are misinterpreted. This is especially true in the case of the Pocem hydropower plant, which is planned to be built on the Vjosa river. The EIA report presented by the Turkish company is a complete farce, where 60% of the text is copied verbatim from other reports and the impacts on the surrounding living things are not evaluated at all. However, the report was approved.

“Therefore, we have opened a court case against this project in the Administrative Court in Tirana. This EU report comes to our aid and supports the affected residents” says Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign from Riverwatch.

Additional information:

European Parliament enlargement report for Albania (Resolution)

  1.  The lack of capacity to enforce environmental legislation is noted with concern, as well as the poor management of waste and water, often resulting in environmental crimes that threaten Albania’s economic resources and constitute an obstacle to an economy with efficient resources; underlines the need to improve the quality of Environmental Impact Assessment reports, as well as to ensure public participation and consultation with civil society for relevant projects; stresses the essential need to achieve climate change objectives without adversely affecting biodiversity, landscapes, water resources, flora and fauna and local communities; is deeply concerned about the fact that, according to the Commission, 44 out of 77 hydropower plants are under construction within protected areas.
  2. It is emphasized that the environmental impact of hydropower plants is often not done properly and in accordance with European standards and EU legislation; advises the government to consider the creation of the Vjosa National Park along its entire length and to abandon plans for the construction of new hydropower plants on the Vjosa River and its tributaries; calls for more reference to EU legislation in the field of energy, especially in the adoption of the national energy strategy in order to increase energy independence and energy efficiency; welcomes the national plan for renewable energy sources 2015-2020.

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