The Project Team of the BalkanDetox LIFE project welcomed the opportunity to meet in person for the first time since the project officially started back in October 2020. During the meeting, the partners discussed and evaluated the overall implementation progress, analyzed the achievements and milestones reached so far and set a course of action for the next six months of the project. Additionally, we used this opportunity to carry out the 1st official NEEMO monitoring visit to our project.
First face-to-face event since COVID-19
The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) organized the meeting in Veles, North Macedonia, between 17-19 May, where members from AOS, PPNEA, BIOM, FWFF, MES and BPSSS attended in person. The VCF invested a lot of effort in the implementation of all COVID-19 precautionary measures, according to the official safety recommendations issued by the authorities in the Republic of North Macedonia, which were well respected by all meeting participants. This being the first face-to-face meeting that we were organizing, and participating in, since the pandemic started, we thought it would be best to limit the participation to only the crucial technical and financial staff from the project team. For non-attending members of the team, a virtual connection was provided, giving them the opportunity to actively follow the course of the meeting and take part in the discussions.
"Being able to meet the team and our monitor in person for the first time since the project started gave us the opportunity to catch up and talk into detail about the progress on each action we started implanting so far. I believe that we all saw how these face-to-face meetings were much more useful and productive, especially when planning for the future," states Uroš Pantović, Project Coordinator of BalkanDetox LIFE.
Project progress and upcoming actions
The meeting focused on three main aspects of the project: technical, financial and management implementation and communication work. During the technical sessions, our NEEMO monitor and all the participants had the opportunity to get informed in detail about the progress that each project partner had made during the first six months of implementing the project in their respective country, as well as all the difficulties and ongoing issues associated with the implementation of current actions. Additionally, the project team has set implementation priorities for the next six months to come and has discussed all the potential difficulties that might occur in the different countries of the project.
The financial session focused on conducting the financial checks by the external monitoring team of NEEMO and presenting the financial progress report from the first six months of the project. We had the opportunity to discuss and sort out all financial issues with our monitor and the financial team of the Coordinating beneficiary.
The communication session provided an overview of the progress made so far, which included key deliverables, including the project website and visual identity. It further provided an outline for actions foreseen in the coming months, which include a digital campaign to raise awareness about the project and the problem of illegal poisoning in the Balkans. All participants were happy with the results.
"It was necessary to see all these motivated people in person and realise one more time how great the BalkanDetox LIFE team is. With this meeting we proved two things: safe meetings during the pandemic are feasible and meetings in person are crucial for the good implementation of this project," says Jovan Andevski, VCF's Programmes Manager.
The 'BalkanDetox LIFE' project aims to strengthen national capacities to fight wildlife poisoning and raise awareness about the problem in Balkan countries. It is a five-year endeavour with a €1.8 million budget, which aims to raise awareness and strengthen national capacities to fight the problem of wildlife poisoning across Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia. It received funding from the EU's LIFE Programme, and it is co-financed by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the MAVA Foundation and Euronatur, as well as by the Whitley Fund for Nature and Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund for specific actions. Project partners are the Vulture Conservation Foundation as the coordinating beneficiary, and the Albanian Ornithological Society, Association BIOM, Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, Hellenic Ornithological Society, Macedonian Ecological Society, Ornitološko društvo NAŠE Ptice and the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania as associated beneficiaries. Furthermore, this project is based on Spanish best practice experience and counts with the support from the Junta de Andalucía and the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.