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Advisory procedure

The Implementation Committee under the Water Convention is equipped with an advisory procedure (see decision VI/1, annex I, section V), which distinguishes this body from other similar mechanisms and enables it to engage with countries seeking to resolve water issues in a non-confrontational manner.

An advisory procedure can be initiated by any Party to the Convention who may request advice from the Committee about its difficulties in implementing the Convention.

Furthermore, a Party, or Parties jointly, may request advice from the Committee about its or their efforts to implement or apply the Convention vis-à-vis each other, other Parties and/or non-Parties.

Advisory procedure WAT/IC/AP/1 (Montenegro and Albania)

In November 2019, the Implementation Committee received a letter from Montenegro related to the concerns of Montenegro about the possible transboundary impact of the planned construction of additional small hydropower plants on the Cijevna/Cem River in Albania.

The Committee discussed the letter and the appropriate course of action during its tenth meeting (2 and 3 December 2019) with a focus on the procedural aspects, with special regard to the scope of the Committee’s mandate. The Committee decided to consider the letter as a request for advice within the advisory procedure set out in section V of annex I to decision VI/1, without prejudice to any future decision to consider the matter within section VI (submissions by Parties) of annex I to decision VI/1.

By letter, dated 6 December 2019, the Committee communicated its decision to discuss the matter within the advisory procedure to Montenegro, as the Party that had addressed the Committee, and to Albania, as a Party concerned with the advisory procedure. The Committee invited Albania to indicate if it was willing to participate in the advisory procedure. Furthermore, the Committee requested both Parties to provide any information and corroborating documentation that they considered relevant.

Albania consented to participate in the advisory procedure by its letter of 31 January 2020. The replies received from both countries included some additional information requested by the Committee concerning the small hydropower plants in question.

Following discussions held on 19 May 2020 during its preparatory meeting to the eleventh meeting of the Committee, the Committee sent letters to the two countries on 8 June 2020 requesting further information and seeking replies to specific questions formulated by the Committee. In August 2020, both countries provided their replies to those questions.

At its eleventh meeting (31 August–2 September 2020), the Committee held two separate information-gathering and consultation sessions with the delegations of Montenegro and Albania, respectively, with the objective of clarifying information received, obtaining additional information and consulting the countries on the proposed way forward in the advisory procedure, in particular on possible future involvement of the Committee. The Committee subsequently decided to continue its involvement in the Cijevna/Cem River-related issues, following a two-track approach according to which the Committee would:

(a)        Stay in contact with the countries to facilitate the exchange of information related to the Cijevna/Cem River basin;

(b)        Assist the countries in setting up a joint monitoring and assessment framework for surface waters, groundwaters and ecosystems in the Cijevna/Cem River basin (ECE/MP.WAT/IC/2020/2, para. 14 (a) and (b)).

Accordingly, on 15 September 2020, the Committee transmitted additional questions to the two countries involved. Replies were subsequently received from Albania, on 22 October 2020, and from Montenegro, on 8 December 2020.

At its preparatory meeting to the twelfth meeting of the Committee held on 24 November 2020, the Committee discussed the proposals it would submit to the countries concerned during the twelfth meeting. Such proposals would in particular address the need for joint monitoring and assessment, as well as exchange of information.

At its twelfth meeting on 4 and 5 February 2021, the Committee held, first, two separate consultation sessions with the delegations of Montenegro and Albania, respectively, and then a joint consultation session with the participation of both countries. The joint session enabled an important exchange between the two countries, whose bilateral commission had not held meetings for more than a year. During the consultation sessions, the Committee further discussed its proposals with both delegations, emphasizing the appropriateness of a step-by-step approach in gradually moving from less complex issues towards more comprehensive ones, once the necessary experience had been gained.

During the joint consultation, facilitated by the Committee on 5 February 2021, Montenegro and Albania agreed:

(a)        That the existing bilateral commission established under the 2018 Framework Agreement on Mutual Relations in the Field of Management of Transboundary Waters should establish a joint technical working group on “Monitoring and assessment”, define the mandate of the joint technical working group based on pressures in the Cijevna/Cem River basin and ensure its regular meetings;

(b)        To develop and implement an information-exchange protocol;

(c)        To use the meetings of the bilateral commission to exchange information, including on existing and planned uses of water and related installations;

(d)       To convene the next meeting of the bilateral commission in the third week of March 2021, with a view to setting up the joint technical working group;

(e)        To ensure that the meetings of the bilateral commission would be held regularly in the future (ECE/MP.WAT/IC/2021/1, para. 15).

The Committee designated Mr. Cunha Serra to assist Montenegro and Albania in the implementation of the technical aspects of the Committee’s advice, should such assistance be welcomed by the two countries.

The Committee formulated its legal and technical advice under advisory procedure WAT/IC/AP/1 and communicated it to Montenegro and Albania on 12 February 2021. In agreement with the parties concerned, the Committee’s legal and technical advice was made publicly available (ECE/MP.WAT/IC/2021/1, annex).

At the thirteenth meeting of the Committee (20 and 21 May 2021), the Water Convention focal points from Montenegro and Albania updated the Committee on progress with implementation of the Committee’s advice. They informed the Committee of the meeting of the bilateral commission established under the 2018 Framework Agreement that had taken place in an online format on 15 April 2021 and discussed, among other things, the Committee’s advice with regard to cooperation in the Cijevna/Cem River basin. The bilateral commission had decided that both countries should nominate their experts to the joint technical working group tasked to put in place a monitoring and assessment regime.

During its fourteenth meeting (24 and 25 February 2022), the Committee listened to the updates from the Water Convention focal points from Montenegro and Albania and held a joint session with two countries. It expressed appreciation for the fact that the bilateral commission established under the 2018 Framework Agreement had met in Podgorica, on 22 February 2022, and decided to establish a joint technical working group, following the legal and technical advice provided by the Committee in February 2021. It called upon the two Parties to finalize the establishment of the joint technical working group and organise its meeting by the end of

April 2022 and to commence work to develop and implement an information exchange protocol without further delay.

At the fifteenth meeting (Geneva, 16 and 17 February 2023), the delegations of Montenegro and Albania briefed the Committee on progress made, in p articular that the joint technical working group on monitoring and assessment had been formed and had met on 26 May 2022 in Tamarë, Albania. At that meeting, the parties had agreed to prepare an information exchange protocol and Montenegro had committed to developing a draft. Both countries also reported that the bilateral commission established under the 2018 Framework Agreement had met on 25 July 2022 in Shkodër, Albania, and on 21 December 2022 through a videoconference. The Committee urged the countries to intensify practical cooperation concerning the collection, processing and effective exchange of data and information on a regular basis. To facilitate the work on a joint draft of the protocol on exchange of information, it provided Montenegro and Albania with examples of existing agreements and protocols in field of exchange of data and information. Both countries asked for assistance from the Committee in the next steps of the cooperation process under the joint technical working group.

Subsequently, two members of the Implementation Committee, Pedro Cunha Serra and Ivan Zavadsky, joined the second meeting of the joint technical group in Shkoder, Albania, on 25 April 2023. At the meeting in Shkoder, several Albanian institutions expressed their readiness to share with Montenegro some hydrological, geological and technical information on the Cijevna/Cem River basin related to the operation of already existing small hydropower plants. Experts from both countries discussed needs and ways for establishing adequate monitoring of transboundary groundwaters in the basin. Albania committed to provide comments on the draft protocol on cooperation in the field of exchange of information prepared by Montenegro. Montenegro committed to provide comments on the project documentation and environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports received from Albania.  The meeting concluded with a field visit to the Murras and Dobrinje small hydropower plants, which were recently built in the Albanian part of the river.