Annette Spangenberg from Euronatur and Besjana Guri from EcoAlbania have recently explained the cause of Vjosa in Euronatur magazine (click here and here to browse the magazine) highlighting the main points where where this cause has stalled.
In September 2020, Prime Minister Edi Rama declared that his government had declared the “upper part of the Vjosa” a National Park and that it was working to integrate it with the “lower part” of the park. However, reviews of public documents of the authorities showed that it was not a “National Park”, but a “protected natural landscape” – one of the shallowest variants of protection, especially for branches of the Vjosa such as Shushica and Bënça.
“[…] Currently the people in charge of this issue are discussing a kind of fake National Park that will not provide any kind of protection to the river and will open the door to hydropower projects,” said Annette Spangenberg from Euronatur.
“[…] Those responsible are currently discussing a kind of fake national park that would offer the river no protection whatsoever and open the door to hydroelectric power projects,“ says Annette Spangenberg, Head of Conersvation at EuroNatur.
About 40 hydropower projects planned to be built on the Vjosa River bed or its tributaries endanger the entire area. Recent studies show that projects bring more harm than good in economic terms (click here to access the study).
“ Probably the Albanian government is afraid for its image and now wants to appear that it is doing something for the Vjosa. But we will not be silenced by these cosmetic measures. We need the highest protection category for this river and not a dam! Anything other than a national park would be inappropriate for the Vjosa,“ affirms Annette Spangenberg.
For at least 7 years EcoAlbania has been engaged in accomplishing the cause “Vjosa National Park”. In 2017, First Instance of Administrative Court gave a significant victory when it overthrew the Poçemi hydropower project and ruled in favor the Vjosa – the case has been appealed.
“The general opinion in Albania is that civil society is powerless. But if Vjosa is declared a National Park after a long battle, it will prove the opposite, that such role models in society are important, “- says Besjana Guri from EcoAlbania as she recalls the decision of 2017.
Since then the issue has received national and international support. After several expeditions and publications in popular magazines and media, about 776 intellectuals and scientists signed a petition, which EcoAlbania presented to the President of Albania Ilir Meta.
He held a conference and openly declared his support for the issue, asking the government to declare Vjosa a “National Park” as soon as possible. The President also attended the inauguration ceremony of the Vjosa Research Center “Fritz Schiemer”.
“When he [the President] made the statement, the Prime Minister followed his example and said in September  that Vjosa was already a National Park in the upper part and the government is working to integrate the lower part into that too. This is how politics always works. “Public pressure creates fear for the image,” Besjana continued, explaining that the following activities and going to the President came as a different strategy after the constant indifference from the government.
“[…] we have been more ignored than heard by the Prime Minister – no matter if we organized protests or asked for meetings. As a result, we have changed our strategy. We have used influential voices to our advantage and no longer focus solely on the prime minister,”Besjana said
An IDRA Poll poll as part of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign showed that 94% of respondents agree that Vjosa should be declared a National Park. With the right political will and with the support declared by national and international organizations, the protection of the Vjosa can be concretized within 2023, with a project that would enable the area a sustainable development and tourism.
A survey of “IDRA Poll” as part of the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”” showed that 94% of respondents agree that Vjosa should be declared a National Park. With the right political will and the support declared by national and international organizations, the protection of the Vjosa can be concretized within 2023, with a project that would enable the region a sustainable development and tourism.