Preserving biodiversity, sharing responsibility – transboundary lake basin management in South-East Europe

Project description

Title: Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity at Lakes Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra/Skadar (CSBL)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: South-East Europe
Lead executing agency: The ministries responsible for environmental protection and nature conservation in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro
Overall term: 2012 to 2017

Young people discover nature in the region of Lakes Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra. © GIZ


The three large lakes of the western Balkans, Ohrid, Prespa and Shkodra, are part of the greater Drin River Basin and are shared by Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro. The lakes have an abundance of rare flora and fauna, making them an important part of Europe's natural heritage. Although they are largely protected under nature conservation laws, the loss of biodiversity continues. Water quality, on the one hand, is deteriorating owing to municipal waste water and fertilisers from farming. On the other hand, more and more buildings are being constructed in the areas along the lakeshores and surfaces paved over. Some areas are suffering from the effects of intensive tourism and overfishing.

As signatories to the Convention on Biodiversity and as European Union (EU) candidate countries, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro are committed to undertaking measures that improve the ecological status of the lakes and protect biodiversity. The legal and strategic framework for these efforts is formed by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), EU nature conservation legislation and the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Implementing these jointly requires close regional cooperation.


The lakes’ natural resources are managed on a transboundary basis and in compliance with EU environmental and biodiversity protection targets.

Exploring biological diversity in the region of Lakes Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra. © GIZ


The project aims to develop expertise and strengthen interministerial cooperation, thereby supporting the ministries and downstream authorities responsible for the environment, water management and fisheries in their efforts to implement the WFD and EU nature conservation legislation. Support for the fishing sector is being provided by the Institute of Inland Fisheries in Potsdam-Sacrow.

Local communities, nature conservation organisations and fishing associations serve as cooperation partners in the lake areas themselves. They are being advised on how to implement measures to protect biological diversity and improve the ecological quality of the lakes. Fishery regulations are being harmonised, thus promoting the sustainability of fishing activities across the borders.

Key cooperation partners at regional level include lake and river basin commissions, in particular the Drin Core Group, the river basin commission formed by the Drin riparians. By strengthening cooperation structures and processes, the project supports the partners in implementing the action plans agreed between the countries. The methodological approach of the project entails establishing and advising forums for dialogue, organising public awareness-raising events and highlighting successful models of transboundary management of surface water in the EU. Cooperation with the Drin Core Group also provides an opportunity to share experiences and to participate in a collaborative learning process with Greece as the only EU member among the Drin riparians.


GIZ has provided support to ministries, authorities, organisations, research institutes and resource users in setting up working groups for the WFD, nature conservation and fisheries. These working groups provide a forum for regional and transboundary cooperation spanning all lakes and act as platforms for knowledge and learning. They oversee implementation of inspection and monitoring programmes in compliance with the WFD and EU nature conservation legislation. They also propose measures for using natural resources sustainably, protecting biodiversity and improving the ecological status of the lakes. Over the long term, they will be incorporated into the structure of the Drin Core Group.

Implementation of the WFD and the EU nature conservation legislation affecting the lakes is systematic, process-oriented, transparent and verifiable. The expertise acquired with respect to processes and methodology can therefore also be applied to other territories of the cooperation countries, for example, protected areas or river basin units.

Lake Shkodra in Montenegro. © GIZ

The partner countries are using the results for their mandatory reports to the European Commission on implementing the EU Environmental Acquis. Direct support is therefore provided for the EU convergence process.


Further information