Safety net over Aoos/Vjosa

Ioli Christopoulou gave an interview to Alexia Tziona at ERT3’s show “Omicron 3” on the transnational efforts to protect the Aoos/Vjosa river, one of the last free-flowing rivers in Europe, whose source is in Greece, and crosses Albania before flowing into the Adriatic.

The discussion brought to the fore two key initiatives of the Albanian side for the protection of the river. First, the designation of the river, along its entire length in Albania, as a natural park in January 2022. As Ioli Christopoulou pointed out, although the designation as a natural park does not exclude the threat caused by plans for smaller and larger pump hydro projects in the area, it is an important milestone that marks for the first time in Albania the inclusion of the entire length of the river in a clear protection scheme, reinforcing such policies.

The second much more recent initiative is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Albanian government and Patagonia which represents a huge alliance of environmental organizations that have been advocating for years the protection of the river. Under the Memorandum, the Albanian government commits to the designation of the river, along its entire length in Albania, including its tributaries, as a National Park.

During the show, statements from the recent visit of the Greek Minister of Environment and Energy, Kostas Skrekas, to the Albanian capital were broadcast, marking the intention of both countries to cooperate for the protection of the river.

Endorsing this important development, Ioli Christopoulou stressed that the Greek side also needs to strengthen the protection of the approximately 20km of the river and its main tributaries that are not included in a national park or a Natura area protection scheme. The momentum to consider this perspective is perfect since environmental studies are being carried out for the full characterisation of the Natura2000 sites identified within the river basin.

These complementary initiatives to protect the river, combined with the corresponding initiatives on the Albanian side, may lead to the designation of the Aoos/Vjosa as the first free-flowing transboundary river in Europe.

Later in the interview it was pointed out that similar trends are also observed in the EU. As Ioli Christopoulou highlighted, the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, to “bring nature back into our lives” includes strategic objectives among which the restoration of rivers. In fact, the European Commission is expected to announce a proposal for a law on nature restoration to make these targets legally binding and then Member States will have to define how to restore rivers. In this context, as Ioli Christopoulou argued, the Aoos/Vjosa, once protected as a free-flowing river, can serve as an example of good practice.

Green Tank collaborates with MedINA, Pindos Environmental and IUCN ECARO in the campaign “Saving the last free-flowing river Aoos/Vjosa” which is part of the larger alliance of environmental organisations “Saving the blue heart of Europe”.

The show was broadcast live on June 15, 2022.

The interview is available here (in Greek):

You may watch the full report here (in Greek).