Marco Keiner_ Intervention_Institutions and Legal Frameworks
Speaking points for Marco Keiner for the International Roundtable on Protection and Sustainable Use of Transboundary Waters in Southeastern Europe” Zagreb, Croatia (15-16 December 2011) Institutions and Legal Frameworks, 16 December 9:05 1. The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes,UNECE Water Convention, will celebrate next year the 20th anniversary from its signature. Lookingback, the Water Convention has played an important role in improving cooperation on shared waters in SEE.Most of the existing bilateral and multilateral agreements between SEE countries are based on the principlesand provisions of the Convention, including the Danube River Protection Convention and the FrameworkAgreement on the Sava River Basin. Also thee Drin Dialogue is inspired by the Water Convention and thesigning of the related MoU represents an important step in responding to the obligation of the Conventionthat riparian states should develop agreements on shared water resources, preferably on specific basins. 2. The Convention provides an important legal framework for regional cooperation on shared waterresources. It is based on three complementary and mutually sustaining obligations, THREE PILLARS: − The obligation to take all appropriate measure to prevent control and reduce transboundary impacts − The obligation to ensure that transboundary waters are used in a reasonable and equitable way, so all riparian should benefit from the water in an equitable manner − The obligation for riparian to cooperate through the establishment of agreements that foresee joint bodies responsible for joint management 3. Most of the SEE countries have ratified the Convention, except for the former Yugoslav Republic ofMacedonia, Turkey and Montenegro. I call on remaining countries in the region to also ratify theConvention. The active participation of non-ECE countries in the Second Assessment , both Parties and nonParties, demonstrates their interest in the Convention and the cooperation platforms it offers 4. The Convention was amended in 2003 to open it up for non-UNECE countries to become Parties andthereby make this platform available also beyond the UNECE region. .It is important that the amendmententers into force as soon as possible, ideally in 2012. I encourage the Parties that have not yet ratified theamendments to do so at the earliest. 5. I would like to highlight two specificities of the Water Convention which makes it unique andrepresent its main added value. 6. First of all, its legally binding nature. In this region where most of the countries are involved in theStabilisation and Association Process or Accession Process and therefore approximating their legalframeworks to the aquis communautaire, the Convention offers a useful framework supporting a step-by-step approximation. The Convention and the EU aquis communautaire, in particular the EU WaterFramework Directive and its daughter directives, promote the same approach to water management.Moreover, by focusing on transboundary aspects, the Convention complements the EU Water FrameworkDirective with provisions that are crucial for the sustainability of cooperation. 7. Secondly, the Convention does not only exist on paper. One of its main strength is related to the workwhich is carried out within its framework and which is designed to support implementation by Parties andnon-Parties, to identify joint priorities and to address emerging challenges. Among the many recent and on-going activities under the Water Convention, there are several which are extremely relevant for the region.First of all, the projects in the field (in the Sava and Drin) which are aiming at strengthening cooperation.
Secondly the direct assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to ratify the WaterConvention. 8. A general lesson that can be drawn is that a prerequisite for success of transboundary cooperation isthe existence of joint bodies – which the UNECE Water Convention requires the Riparian Parties toestablish. Joint bodies provide THE venue for the regularization of transboundary cooperation and for itsprogressive enhancement and extension. The competences of joint bodies vary greatly, but in general, withtime and trust, competences tend to expand to include new areas, an increasing environmental mandate, andalso an increasing mandate to coordinate with other sectors. 9. The Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters illustrates that an area ofobvious difficulty is the cooperation on transboundary groundwaters which is far less advanced thancooperation on surface waters. On a positive note, the efforts to inventory transboundary groundwaters aremore advanced in SEE than in most other parts of the UNECE region. The difficulty has many reasons, firstof all the fact that groundwaters are not “visible”. At the same time, this resource will become more andmore strategic with on one hand the growing water scarcity and on the other the growing need for water ofhigh quality. It is therefore important that the legal and institutional framework for transboundarygroundwater cooperation is strengthened. The current work under the Water Convention in this area, with theLegal Board looking in detail into the application of the Convention to groundwaters is very timely andneeded. 10. Transboundary cooperation is supported under the Water Convention also through a numberprojects which may involve, for example, advice in setting up joint monitoring, negotiating agreements orestablishing joint bodies. One example of such a practical activity is implementation of UNECE’s Guidanceon water and adaptation to climate change in a number of pilot basins — among them the Sava River. I amvery glad of working with the Sava River Basin Commission and with other interested actors on this. Thecapacity to cooperate on adaptation will be a critical issue for transboundary waters in the region,considering the predicted increase in water scarcity, and for reconciling their multiple uses, and this projectwill generate useful knowledge to share. 11. To conclude I would like to underline that there are many important actors in the SEE regionsupporting cooperation and the Convention being just one of them, it is crucial that we coordinate our actionand join forces to maximize the impact. For UNECE and the Water Convention this has always beenextremely important and we see the Petersberg Process /Athens Declaration as a very fruitful frameworkwere different actors can join forces and multiply their impacts by building on their specific strengths andmaximising synergies. I would like to thank all the partners for the fruitful cooperation. UNECE lookforward to continue working with SEE countries and with other national and international actors to promotecooperation and sustainability in the region.