Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro Branimir Gvozdenović met earlier today with Head of Unit for Montenegro in the DG for European Neighbourhood Policy Dirk Lange and representatives of the EU Delegation to discuss development of the National Environmental Approximation Strategy and the protection of the Salt Plant Ulcinj.
As to the draft national environmental approximation strategy, Minister Gvozdenović informed the EU representatives about the status of the document, explaining that the public hearing started on 5 March and will last for forty days, thus allowing all stakeholders to participate actively in further improving the strategic document. Minister Gvozdenović also briefed Mr Lange on further dynamics of the strategy development, stressing the Ministry's intention that Government approves the stategy in June 2016. He pointed to the importance of economic and financial harmonisation with the EU acquis in the field of environment, since it is a one of financially most demanding negotiation chapters in the EU accession process.
The meeting in particular focused on the issue of the Salt Plant Ulcinj, an artificial ecosystem whose survival depends on human factor. Emphasising the Government’s commitment to resolving this issue, Minister Gvozdenović presented the activities undertaken by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism and the Government in order to protect the area. The officials exchanged information relating to the three levels of protection, namely national, international and protection through the existing and planned spatial planning documents providing protection of this valuable space. It was also highlighted that there are no planning assumptions that would enable the issuance of building permits in this area. Minister Gvozdenović underscored that, in addition to formal protection, it is necessary to ensure long-term and sustainable management of the area.
Dirk Lange of the EU underlined the complexity of the implementation of the obligations arising from the acquis in the field of environment, suggesting that when it comes to the National Environmental Approximation Strategy special attention should be paid to the time-frame, funds necessary for this area and the dynamics of meeting the planned obligations. He also noted it is necessary to be well prepared for negotiations, thus facilitating the implementation of the necessary measures in order to comply with the EU acquis in the field of environmental protection. Stating that the environment knows no borders, Mr Lange pointed out that the area of the Salt Plant Ulcinj is highly significant not only for Montenegro, but also for Europe, and that the protection of this area affects the protected areas in the EU member states and their efforts towards protecting the environment and Europe's biodiversity. In that regard, he stressed the importance of establishing safety at international and national levels.
Although international protection has not yet been established, Minister Gvozdenovic assured representatives of the EU that there is no current threats that could potentially endanger this area of the Salt Plant Ulcinj. The officials agreed that the process need to be conducted in a transparent manner and in cooperation with the NGO sector. The EU delegation expressed its willingness to examine the possibility of providing financial support to Montenegro in order to finalise the study on the protection of the Salt Plant Ulcinj, which, inter alia, through a detailed economic analysis should define a model of sustainable management of this area.