Since early times, rivers frame the landscape – as borders, as way of transport, via dams as an energy provider, as a source for fisheries and agriculture, as space for sporting or as a tourist attraction. All of that has the consequence that all European rivers have transformed: tamed and domesticated.
1. Goscinny and Uderzo
All rivers? That is a little bit like with Asterix and Obelix (slightly modified): “The year is 2021. Europe is entirely under the influence of those who want to domesticate all the rivers. All?! Well, not entirely…One small river of indomitable Albanians still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for those who from Tirana, Berlin, Brussels, and Paris want to change the character of the Vjosa river with their dam projects…”
2. Europe’s last big wild river
The Vjosa (Albania) is Europe’s last big wild river outside Russia and a unique natural ecosystem with about 300 yet untouched kilometers. The future of that river has now become a much-disputed question in the country: some of the decision-makers (including Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Ilir Meta) are open to establishing the first Wild River National Park in Europe along the river, while others intend to build several hydropower dams.
3. First Wild River National Park in Europe
In the light of the Albanian national elections on 25 April, international and national (Albania, Austria, and Germany) environmental NGOs have intensified their national – and international – efforts for the creation of that Wild River National Park. Generally, well-informed sources are speaking of a “deal”: to protect only the very first kilometers and use the major part of those dams.
4. Ursula von der Leyen and four EU Commissioners
Therefore, a European-wide campaign “Vjosa National Park Now” had been started. One of the elements will be the hand-over of a souvenir from the Vjosa to Ursula von der Leyen and three EU Commissioners (Frans Timmermans, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Olivér Várhelyi) on 22nd March, International Water Day. Even if Albania is not a member of the European Union, the European Green Deal and EU Biodiversity Strategy can be a basis for action.
5. Video – the exceptional beauty of the Vjosa
A video is asking for international solidarity and proposing to the citizens in Albania to take the destiny of the Vjosa river into consideration, when they go on 25th April to the ballot boxes for the national elections. I do not know what you are feeling when you clicked on the video – me, I took the decision to visit that remote part of Albania after the end of the Covid-19 restrictions.