Environmental protection is one of the areas where the Balkan countries still face a big challenge to catch up with their western neighbours. After the 1990s conflicts and the breakup of Yugoslavia, six new Balkan states emerged. Apart from integrating environmental concerns into the new policies, a major challenge is environmental management across new borders. What used to be six international river basins in the Balkans have now evolved into 13 internationally shared river basins and four transboundary lake basins.
The situation is similar for areas of high ecological value, many of which are often located in mountainous border areas. To ensure effective protection, entire ecosystems have to be addressed regardless of the political borders that are dividing them on a map. Transboundary cooperation between countries sharing one or more natural resources is therefore indispensable for creating common frameworks that promote their sustainable use while offering an opportunity for confidence-building between cooperating countries.