National and regional story (Bosnia and Herzegovina) - The Sava River Basin Initiative
Besides numerous socio-economic and other transitional difficulties that Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing in all these post-war years, it also has a very active role and successful participation in actions and activities of regional dimension.
A particularly significant role in the sense of regional cooperation is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a party in The International Sava River Basin Commission (Sava Commission). In order to explain why it is so important for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the role and dimension of The Sava River Basin Initiative and The International Sava River Basin Commission will be reviewed below.
The Sava River Basin Initiative
After dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the Sava River, which was the biggest national river, became an international river of recognized importance.
The establishment of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe (SP) provided a solid basis for active cooperation of all stakeholders in the region and paved the way towards the creation of a new approach to water resources management in the river basin.
Following the support of the Stability Pact, the four riparian countries of the Sava River Basin - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia entered into a process of cooperation known as “The Sava River Basin Initiative” (Sava Initiative). The process resulted in a “Letter of Intent” on launching joint activities with regard to the Sava River and its tributaries. This was signed in Sarajevo (B&H) on 29 November 2001 by the ministers of foreign affairs of the four countries.
The basic idea of the Sava Initiative contained in the “Letter of Intent” was to utilise, protect and control the Sava River Basin water resources in a manner that would enable “better life conditions and raising the standard of population in the region”, and to find the appropriate institutional framework to enhance the cooperation.
Acknowledging the great political, economic and social changes that have taken place in the region, and accepting the idea to cooperate in the area of sustainable development, utilisation, protection and management of water resources in the Sava River Basin, the basin countries accepted the challenge and managed to conclude "The Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin" (FASRB) – the unique international agreement, which integrated all aspects of the water resources management and established the (joint) International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) for the implementation of the FASRB, with the legal status of an international organization.
After signing the FASRB on 3 December 2002 at Kranjska Gora (Slovenia), a remarkable amount of work was done by the Interim Sava Commission – the temporary joint body established at the Conference of the Interested Parties of the Sava Basin Initiative, held on 12 March 2003, under the organisation of the Director SP Working Table II at Brussels. The Interim Sava Commission was formed to prepare all steps necessary for the establishment of the permanent Commission upon entry of the FARBS into force.
In the years which followed, all Parties ratified the FASRB, so it entered into force on 29 December 2004. The First Constitutional Session of the Sava Commission was held on 27 June 2005. The permanent Secretariat of the Sava Commission started work on 9 January 2006.
The International Sava River Basin Commission
The International Sava River Basin Commission (Sava Commission) is the joint institution established with the international legal capacity necessary for exercising its functions, e.g. the implementation of the FASRB. The Sava Commission is composed of two representatives of each Party, one member and one deputy member, having one vote in the Sava Commission. The Commission has a Chairman who represents the Sava Commission. The Seat of the Sava Commission is Zagreb, Republic of Croatia.
The International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) has been established for the purpose of implementation of FASRB and realisation of the following mutually agreed goals:
- Establishment of an international regime of navigation on the Sava River and its navigable tributaries, which includes provision of conditions for safe navigation on the Sava River and its tributaries,
- Establishment of sustainable water management, which includes cooperation on management of the Sava River Basin water resources in a sustainable manner, including integrated management of surface and ground water resources,
- Undertaking of measures to prevent or limit hazards, such as floods, ice, droughts and accidents involving substances hazardous to water, and to reduce or eliminate related adverse consequences.
This will be done through a set of activites, including:
- coordination of the development of joint / integrated plans for the SRB, such as River Basin Management Plan, Flood Risk Management Plan and Contingency Plan,
- coordination of the establishment of integrated systems for the SRB, such as GIS, RIS (River Information Services), and Monitoring, Forecasting and Early Warning Systems (for accident prevention and control, and for flood protection),
- preparation and realisation of development programmes and other strategic documents, carrying out and coordination of the preparation of studies and projects,
- harmonisation of national legislation with EU legislation,
- creation of additional protocols to the FASRB,
- cooperation and public participation.
In order to implement the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin, the Sava Commission has been given the capacity for decision-making in the field of navigation and providing recommendations on all other issues.
Additionally, the Sava Commission serves as a focal point in the identification and implementation of projects of regional importance, which leads to the strengthening of cooperation of the Sava countries in water management.
In general, the Sava Commission, during its sessions, raises specific issues to be investigated by the Secretariat and/or an expert group. When a solution is found, the Secretariat presents it to the Sava Commission with the recommendation on next steps. According to the recommendations of the Secretariat, the Sava Commission, during its regular or special sessions, adopts decisions and recommendations to the Parties. Decisions adopted by the Sava Commission in the field of navigation have a binding character for all the Parties, aiming to provide conditions for safe navigation and conditions for financing the construction of waterways and their maintenance. In the field of water management, the Sava Commission adopts only recommendations. Both the decisions and recommendations are passed unanimously.