Environmental NGOs in the Balkans ready to cooperate
-- Environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in
South-Eastern Europe (SEE) have reached the point of starting
electronic networks in their countries, and linking them regionally.
This was the conclusion drawn by the First Meeting of Regional SEE
NGO Electronic Networks held on 28-29 March 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The meeting brought together nascent environmental NGO networks in
the Balkans region for the first time to meet face-to-face, share
experiences and find solutions to the challenges of working together
online. BlueLink, Bulgaria's APC member network, another APC member,
StrawberryNet of Romania and the Regional Environmental Centre for
Central and Eastern Europe (REC) co-hosted the meeting.
event opened in Sofia with a ceremony attended by ambassadors, a
representative from the Bulgarian Ministry for the Environment,
cooperating agencies, and local press. Plamen Dimitrov of the
USAID-funded Institute for Sustainable Communities praised the work
of BlueLink in Bulgaria and the region. "Despite the fact that the
funding we gave to Bluelink was half that granted to similar
initiatives, BlueLink has proved to be the bench-mark for our work -
a brilliant example of the potential and dynamism of environmental
civil society in Bulgaria", Dimitorv said. The Bulgarian Minister
for the Environment and Water sent a special greeting to the
participants and to BlueLink in particular as they celebrated four
years since their founding.
During the working part of the
meeting in Bistrica - an area close to the oldest national park in
the Balkans - the participants from the regional networks discussed
the challenges and difficulties they encounter in setting up
electronic networks and looked for solutions. The meeting
organisers, BlueLink and Strawberry Net, networks with experience
stretching over various years, shared lessons learned to the
fledgling networks from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,
Macedonia, Yugoslavia and Moldova.
The only missing link was
Kosovar network, SharriNet. Sharrinet's representative had not been
allowed to cross the Bulgarian border, despite the fact that event
organizers had received a prior confirmation from the Visa Centre of
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the Kosovar UNMIK passport is
recognised in Bulgaria. This incident reminded all those present
that Balkan nations have a lot of work to do in order to improve
relations and promote regional cooperation. The First Regional SEE
NGO Electronic Networks Meeting showed that regional cooperation is
possible, most participants agreed.
BlueLink is one the pioneer networks of the Balkan region.
Reflecting on BlueLink's beginnings and the challenges and successes
faced, acting Chair, Vassil Beyazov emphasised that "BlueLink's
vision for the future is still to respond to the information needs
of environmental NGOs. And we'll carry on connecting Bulgarian
environmental NGOs with the communities in the neighbour countries
of Central, Southern and Eastern Europe, as well as with the global
civil society movement through APC".
The First Regional SEE
NGO Electronic Networks meeting was made possible thanks to the
project for electronic environmental NGOs networking in Southern and
Eastern Europe (SEE) - a part of the Regional Environmental
Reconstruction Programme (REReP) for the Balkans Stability Pact. The
event was supported by the Regional Environmental Center for Central
and Eastern Europe (REC) and Milieukontakt Oost-Europa, the
Netherlands based foundation that pioneered supporting BlueLink
Originator: --- (BlueLink)