The regional association 'Parks Dinarides – network of protected areas of Dinarides' has been officially established on the establishment assembly in Podgorica. The representatives of 36 protected areas from the Dinaric Arc region have elected the president and the governing council of the association that is going to provide them with easier experience exchange, development of mutual projects and promotion.

Podgorica, Montenegro – In the presence of Mr Branimir Gvozdenović, the Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, 36 representatives of protected areas from the Dinaric Arc region took part in the establishing assembly of the regional association 'Parks Dinarides – network of protected areas of Dinarides' in the Ramada Hotel in Podgorica. After 60 parks from eight countries in the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Slovenia and Serbia) had signed the letter of intention to establish the association in Brijuni National Park in Croatia in October, the base of its future work and development has been authoritatively set in the assembly.

'It is our great honor and pleasure that our country is the headquarters of this Association and a part of this organization whose aim is to create the platform of protected areas by connecting all the parks in the Dinaric Arc region. The establishment of this Association represents the result of agreement reached in Budva a year ago by adoption of the mutual document 'Great Victory for the Dinaric Arc',' set off Minister Gvozdenović.

With establishment of 'Parks Dinarides – network of protected areas of Dinarides' in today's establishment assembly, the representatives of protected areas from eight countries have adopted its Statute, elected the members of the board of directors and other working bodies. With that act they have set the base of its future work and development formally and legally. The president of the Association, Mr Zoran Mrdak (the director of the Public Institution Parks of Montenegro) and vicepresidents Mr Amarildo Mulić (the director of Una National Park) and Oner Jakupovski (the director of Mavrovo National Park) have been elected. Mr Nenad Strizirep (the Deputy Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection of the Republic of Croatia) has been elected the President of the assembly association and Leon Kebe (the Dinaric Arc Parks project manager) has been declared secretary general of the association.

'Organized nature protection in the Dinarides region started in the end of the 19th century. First national parks were formed in the mid-20th century. Today's formation of Parks Dinarides represents another important event and a new, higher level of organizing nature protection in the region,' said Zoran Mrdak, the President of the Association.

By the official start of the Association, the main activity of the WWF Dinaric Arc Parks project has been finalized. This project set the base for the Association in the last three years. Mr Leon Kebe, the Dinaric Arc Parks project manager and secretary general of the Association set off: 'We are glad that with this act we contributed to the Article 11 of the 'Great Victory for the Dinaric Arc' document that was accepted a year ago in Budva in our second international conference with mutual responsibility of all the countries. The first step towards the accomplishment of this commitment has been done! WWF is happy because now it has a firm project partner for future work with protected areas in the region.'

The headquarters of the Association is going to be in Montenegro for the first three years. Its board of directors consists of one representative from each of the eight countries of the Dinaric Arc. Networking of parks, technical support in the professional sense and excellent promotion of parks are among the main aims of the Association establishment. The Association should also help the protected areas of the region in attracting funds and mutual development of projects.

Petra Boić Petrač, WWF Adria