Transboundary: National Integrated Water Resources Management Dialogues; Experience from Central and Eastern Europe (#370)

In the River Basin District of the CEE region, the countries are cooperating to develop transboundary management, using the International River Basin Commission as a platform. The aim is to address national IWRM priorities, strengthen cooperation with major stakeholders and initiate changes in policies and legislation. This case illustrates the difficulties to balance national priorities in a transboundary context. 


In all the River Basin District of CEE region, all countries have been working on their national management plans. As these plans need to be established for the whole river basin, the countries are also cooperating on the international level to develop its transboundary version, based exactly on national plans.  They use the International River Basin Commissions (for Danube, Oder, Elbe, Vistula, Daugava and others) as a platform to discuss and agree on the transboundary aspects of the water resources plans and their implementation.

Country water partnerships (under GWP CEE) in 12 countries of Central and Eastern Europe organised national IWRM dialogues from 2006 until 2007. The following countries were involved: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

The dialogues reflected priorities on the national level ranging from river basin planning, sustainable sanitation, water governance, and cross sectoral cooperation. Goal of the dialogues was to address national IWRM priorities, strengthen cooperation with major stakeholders and initiate changes in policies and legislation.

GWP CEE and all CWPs supported respective International River Basin Commissions in capturing a wide spectrum of stakeholders ranging from governments, businesses, NGOs and local municipalities. 

The River Basin Management Plans adopted in the CEE region include measures to achieve a good status by 2015. 

Lessons learned

Although the development of RBMP is an obligation should be accomplished according to the EU Water Framework Directive, dialogues conducted showed different national approaches taken in individual countries, distinct priorities in water management, and finally specific attitudes and methods used for stakeholders’ involvement. It illustrates that there is no prescription of the best way to develop and implement national IWRM plans, especially in case of transboundary basins.

In some countries – Hungary and Poland – the dialogue initiative continued with more than a single event. Ukrainian participants proposed that IWRM Implementation Strategy should become a part of National Environmental Strategy and it should be included in the new program of cooperation between EU and Ukraine.

In Romania, for example, a Common Declaration considers IWRM as overarching aim to which EU water related directives contribute and create synergic effects. The Declaration calls upon government to keep commitments arising from the World Summit for Sustainable Development and MDG which should be harmonized with EU legislation despite demanding process of its implementation.

The dialogues reached stakeholders outside traditional water sector are also the case; good example is very active engagement of local authorities represented by Association of Towns and Municipalities in Slovakia. 

Importance of the case for IWRM

The dialogues were the opportunity for country water partnerships to clarify the EU concept of river basin planning brought by Water Framework Directive and IWRM planning. They also helped to identify gaps that were later addressed by GWP or its partner organizations. In most cases outcomes of the dialogues were instrumental to governments reporting on the progress of IWRM plans and EU WFD as well. 

Photo credit: GWP CEE/Muller