|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-02-02
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Financial system supports econ reforms, Eurobank CEO says(ĮĶĮ-MPA) -- The domestic financial system is determined to support reforms in the public and private sectors, reforms needed for the country to exit the crisis, Nikolaos Nanopoulos, Eurobank Groupās chief executive, said on Tuesday. Addressing an event organised by the bank, the banking executive stressed that the state bondsā spread should be allowed to remain at current high levels for a long time, as it would have serious consequences on the cost of money in the country.
Nanopoulos noted that the governmentās updated Stability and Growth Programme was moving towards the right direction, and said the programme should signal the beginning of a period of drastic structural transformations and fiscal discipline for the Greek society.
He added that restoring confidence to the Greek economy was a decisive factor for achieving fiscal stability and the return of the economy to growth rates.
 Greece, Albania, FYROM sign agreement for Prespes ParkGreece, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) signed a formal agreement for protection of the unique Prespes Lakes wetland on Tuesday, on the anniversary of World Wetlands Day and exactly 10 years since the declaration of the Balkans' first transboundary eco-agreement.
The agreement for the park that straddles the borders of all three countries was signed by Greek Environment Minister Tina Birbili and her Albanian and FYROM counterparts, Fatmir Mediu and Nexhati Jakupi, as well as European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas. It dates back to the pledge made in a Joint Communique on February 2, 2000 by the prime ministers of the three countries at that time to cooperate in protecting the Prespes ecosystem.
The key aim of the agreement is to facilitate trilateral cooperation to ensure comprehensive protection of the Prespes Lakes wildlife and sustainable development in the Prespes Park area, as well as to develop a comprehensive plan for managing the waters flowing into the Prespes basin.
In statements after the signature of the agreement, Dimas underlined the importance of such transnational agreements and pointed out that "the environment does not recognise borders". He also expressed satisfaction that one of his last acts as environment Commissioner was to preside over such an important agreement.
Birbili praised the role of non-governmental organisations and local communities in the 10 years that intervened from when the transnational Prespes Park was first declared until the emergence of the legally binding agreement signed by the three countries on Tuesday. She also particularly emphasised the support of the "European family" in this effort, since an innovative feature of the agreement signed on Tuesday is that the European Union will be represented in the park's administrative committee.
Mediu hailed the agreement, emphasising the important of cooperation on a regional level and saying that this should be seen in the context of a European prospect for the region, while inviting Greece to take on a central role in the management of other environmental issues. The FYROM minister said the agreement came as a crucial time and redefined commitments to sustainable development and protection of biodiversity in the Prespes region.
Ramsar Convention senior advisor for Europe Tobias Salathe also made a brief statement, in which he stressed the importance of the agreement for the region.
The history of the agreement
The drive for the signature of the agreement was revived last November by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who organised an informal summit of the three countries' premiers at the Ramsar-protected Prespa National to discuss cooperation in the management of the Prespes Lakes Park.
The effort was launched at a trilateral summit on February 2, 2000, symbolically held on World Wetlands Day, by the then prime ministers Costas Simitis of Greece, Ilir Meta of Albania and Ljubco Georgievski of FYROM, in a declaration that designated the Prespes region a National Park, the first of its kind in the Balkans.
The aim of the park is to protect several the regionās rare wildlife, as well as enhancing cooperation among Balkan countries.
After the declaration, an informal coordination committee was set up by the three countries, which from 2001 until the present has advanced the planning and execution of joint programs for protection of the area and improvement of the local residents' standard of living. The development of the Strategic Action Plan for the Sustainable Development of Prespes Park, financed by Greece, was one of the first major achievements of this collaboration.
In the context of the decade-long cooperation, many local agencies (chiefly municipalities and NGOs) have been working together to carry out joint programs, often funded by international financial organisations. Even though there has not been a legally binding agreement so far, such initiatives have resulted in significant joint actions that have promoted both sustainable local development but also brought the populations of the neighbouring countries closer together.
Prespes: A treasure chest of biodiversity
The Prespes basin stands out for its exquisite biodiversity, which has been acknowledged at European and global level not only for its rich fauna and flora, but for the quality and rarity of the species found there.
More than 260 species of birds, 1,500 species of plants, 23 species of fish and 60 species of mammals make up Prespes' rare biodiversity.
The Lesser Prespa Lake and Greater Prespa Lake of Florina, northwestern Greece form a unique ecosystem and constitute a natural border between the three countries.
The two tectonic Lakes, among the oldest on Earth, are home to the Mediterranean's most ancient species of trout, and also the short-horn pygmy cow, both of which are threatened with extinction.
The Prespes Lakes are also among the 10 most important wetlands of the Mediterranean, while eight of the 11 fish species native to the lakes are endemic and not found anywhere else in the world.
The area is a large basin at an altitude of 850m which contains two lakes, Mikri (Lesser) and Megali (Greater) Prespa. Megali Prespa is today located in Greece, Albania and FYROM while Mikri Prespa is entirely located within Greece and Albania.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Center, the area is characterized by outstanding natural beauty and has been inhabited without interruption since antiquity (with traces of ancient habitation in the area of "Lemos" and on the island of Agios Achilleos) to the present day.
The local population has closely associated the area, its history and its natural beauty with myths, legends and traditions.
The Prespes region contains the highest degree of species biodiversity in a corresponding surface area in Europe. It is a unique lake landscape of outstanding natural beauty that includes a wealth of monuments from the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period. The uniqueness lies in the interaction between man and nature.
Covering an area that includes both lakes and the neighbouring slopes of Mounts Triklari and Varnunda, the National Park is the largest in Greece with a core area of 4,900 hectares and a surrounding zone of 14,750 hectares. It begins at an altitude of 850m and contains deciduous forest dominated by oak and beech, as well as fir and cedar forests. More than 1500 plant species and 12 forest types can be encountered in the area in which 46 mammal species live, including some of the rarest in Europe such as the wolf, bear, wild ibex and otter.
Moreover, the area is one of the most important biotopes in Greece in terms of bird life. Birds that nest here include the grey goose (Anser anser) and the goosander (Mergus mersander), cranes (Ardeidae), cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) and pygmy cormorants (Phalacrocorax pygmeus), as well as several species of ducks, terns, birds of prey, woodpeckers, etc. It is the only area in Europe other than the Danube Delta and the former USSR where two species of pelican reproduce, the White pelican (Pelecanus onocratulus) and the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus). The water meadows surrounding the lakes are home to significant amphibian and reptile populations.
Protected areas in the three countries
Over the last few decades, all three countries have taken a series of steps to protect the unique ecosystems of Prespes.
In Albania, the Prespes National Park was established in 1999 aimed at the restoration and sustainable protection of critical land and aquatic ecosystems in the area.
In Greece, the Prespes National Park was established in 1974 for the protection of the Lesser and Greater Prespes Lakes and their outflow basin, while in 1975 the area was designated a "Place of Significant Natural Beauty". Further, the Greek section of the Lakes' basin is included in the National List of 163 areas that have been entered in the Natura 2000 network as "Special Protected Areas" (SPA) in accordance with the EU 'Birds' (conservation of wild birds, 1979) and 'Habitats' (conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora, 1992) Directives.
The Lesser Prespa Lake was designated in 1974 as a "Wetland of International Importance" under the Ramsar Convention.
In FYROM, the Pelister National Park was founded in 1948 for protection of a globally unique mountain ecosystem east of the Greater Prespa Lake, while the Galicica National Park was founded in 1958 for the restoration and protection of a unique land ecosystem extending to Mt. Galicica situated between Greater Prespa and Lake Ohrid. The Ezerani (Ramsar site) ornithological (nature) reserve was founded in 1996 for the protection of migratory and other aquatic birds. Greater Prespa was designated a "Natural Monument" in 1977.
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