Regional Cooperation within the Sava Commission for Sustainable Development of Bosnia&Herzegovina


Author: MSc Biljana Savić, Senior Associate, Main bank of RS, Central bank of B&H, e-mail:

Regional cooperation between countries of South-Eastern Europe has made a qualitative shift from externally guided actions towards the active and responsible engagement, with the aim of the sustainable development of the region. This change was accompanied with transformation of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe into the Regional Cooperation Council. The formation of the Regional Cooperation Council, with the Secretariat in Sarajevo, marks a major shift in policy towards the region of the international community. These countries began a new phase of “regional ownership and responsibility” for regional cooperation. In this regard, the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin, concluded between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Republic of Slovenia and Republic of Serbia, is of particular importance. Therefore, this agreement includes all the functions of water resources management – the establishment of an international regime of navigation on the Sava River and its tributaries, the establishment of sustainable water management and prevention or limitation of the hazards in the basin effects of floods, ice, droughts and incidents substances that are harmful to water. International Sava River Basin Commission (Sava Commission) was formed as a permanent body in charge of implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin, development of the Action Plan for the Sava River Basin and the adoption of necessary legal acts and the Protocols. Cooperation in the Sava Commission is based on the application of EU directives in the field of water and harmonization of the legislation with the EU legislation.

Editors note: Over the next couple of weeks we will examine various aspects of regional cooperation in the Sava river basin.


Bosnia and Hercegovina, forms an integral part of the Danube River Basin, through the River Sava, which name means strength and safety. Sava used to be the largest national river of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. With the disintegration of SFRY and upon establishment of the independent countries in the basin, Sava River becomes a river of a great international importance. The necessity of an integrated approach as the basis for sustainable water management in Sava River Basin includes cross-border cooperation and interaction between the above mentioned states these states, with the efforts of the international organizations and arrangements present in the Danube Basin, led to the beginning of the negotiation process known as the Sava Initiative. The formal launch of this initiative was The letter of Intent concerning International Sava River Basin Commission, signed in Sarajevo on 29 November 2001, by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Republic of Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Minister for the Civil Affairs and Communication of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Natural Basis for Cooperation

Mapa basena Save

Figure 1. The Sava River Basin Map (Source: International Sava River Basin Commission, 2009)

The Sava River Basin covers the total area of approximately 97.713 km2 and represents one of the most important sub-basins of the Danube River Basin, with the share of 12%. The Sava River is the richest-in-water Danube tributary, contributing with environ 25% to the Danube’s total discharge. Its length from the main source in Slovenia, formed from the two mountainous streams, the Sava Dolinka and the Sava Bohinjka, to the mouth to the Danube in Belgrade (Serbia) is 945 km. With 594 km of the waterway, from Belgrade to Sisak (Croatia), the Sava River contributes to the Danube inland waterway transport network. The Sava River Basin is shared by five countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro. Albania makes one negligible part (0,18%) of the basin area. ((International Sava River Basin Commission, “Sava River Basin Analysis Report” Zagreb, September 2009, p. 5))

Table 1.Countries in the Sava River Basin (Source: ISRBC, Strategy on Implementation of the FASRB, April 2009, p.10.)

Country Share (km) Share (%) FASRB









Bosnia and Herzegovina

















The hydrological system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is very rich. The Sava River runs 345 km in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has the four main tributaries: the Una 215 km long, the Vrbas River (235 km), Bosna (272 km), and Drina (345 km). Drina River is the largest and the most important tributary of the Sava River. Its course is formed in Montenegro from two mountainous streams, Tara and Piva. The most vulnerable areas to floods in the Sava River Basin are the middle part of the Sava river, from Zagreb to Županja, and its lower part, downstream Županja, and also downstream section of the Sava tributaries, as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. Indicative map of important flood prone areas along Sava River (Source: ISRBC, The Sava River Basin Analysis – Summary, December 2010, p. 31.)

The Sava River Basin is known for the retention areas of distinct beauty, which are a habitat to rare wetland plants and animal species. According to The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, so-called Ramsar Convention, the Sava countries have designated six sites in the Sava River Basin.

Figure 3. Locations of the Ramsar sites in the Sava River Basin (Source: International Sava River Basin Commission)

Those Ramsar Sites with a great ecological value are: Cernica Lake (Slovenia), Lonjsko polje and Crna mlaka (Croatia), Bardača Wetland (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Obedska bara and Zasavica (Serbia). The best known is Obedska bara, one of the biggest wild bird’s reservation areas in Europe.

Next week: on the legal framework of cooperation and the International Sava River Comission



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