Cross-border pact for Prespes

Environment Minister Tina Birbili and her counterparts from neighboring Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday signed a trilateral pact for the protection of the Prespes Lakes, the largest of which occupies territory in all three countries. The agreement was mooted last November during a meeting by Prime Minister George Papandreou, his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha and FYROM’s premier, Nikola Gruevski, at the Prespes Lakes National Park. Although other issues broached at that meeting, including Greece’s enduring dispute with FYROM over the latter’s name, remain far from resolved, an agreement for the protection of the unique wetland was reached quickly. The pact signed yesterday by the three environment ministers is primarily aimed getting authorities in all three countries involved in a comprehensive scheme for the protection and sustainable development of the area. The intent is to preserve the quantity and quality of the water in the two lakes, to prevent pollution and to maintain regional biodiversity through the protection of flora and fauna. Other goals include the implementation of measures to avert soil erosion and the fostering of sustainable agriculture in the broader region. Apart from Birbili and her counterparts from FYROM and Albania, Nexhati Jakupi and Fatmir Mediu, respectively, yesterday’s meeting was attended by outgoing European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, who said he was glad to be part of such a significant initiative as his term as commissioner comes to an end. Birbili described the agreement as a «very important step» and expressed the hope that it would be the first of «many bigger, more significant steps toward sustainable development in the region.»

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