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International water issues
All of the River Basin Districts (RBD) are transboundary river basins. The Gauja RBD is shared with Estonia and the Lielupe RBD and the Venta RBD are shared with Lithuania. The Daugava RBD is shared with Belarus, Lithuania and Russian Federation and it also includes a very small part of the Lake Peipus-Narva river basin which is predominantly in Estonia (EC, 2012, EC, 2015; EEA, 2015).
The Daugava, Lielupe and Venta rivers are included in the list of European Main Transboundary Surface Waters. The water quality problems of these rivers can only be solved by means of international agreements, in compliance with the mechanisms provided in the Helsinki Convention on “Use and protection of transboundary watercourses and international lakes” adopted in 1992 and ratified by Latvia in 1996 (MoERD, 2016).
Coordination of some River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) elements with Lithuania has occurred, but a joint RBMP has not been elaborated. An intergovernmental commission on transboundary cooperation between these two countries was set up following the “Agreement on Transfrontier Cooperation between the Government of Lithuania and the Government of Latvia” signed in 1999. Cooperation with Lithuania seeking to create a joint River Basin District Management Plan will continue on the basis of this agreement and pursuant to the Technical Protocol of Cooperation in the Management of International River Basin Districts, signed between the Ministry of Environment of Lithuania and the Ministry of Environment of Latvia in 2003.
A draft agreement between Latvia, Belarus and the Russian Federation on the Western Dvina/Daugava river basin, establishing a joint commission, was finalized in 2003. Latvia approved the draft but it was not signed as Russia and Belarus postponed the final decision several times due to various reasons. After joining the European Union (EU) in 2004, water quality became a topic of shared responsibility between the Member States and the EU. Therefore, any international agreement on water management between an EU Member State and a non-Member State requires the EU as a Contracting Party. Cooperation agreements were on the list of topics to be discussed during high-level meetings of the EU and the Russian Federation. However, this has not led to renewal of the negotiations concerning river basin management agreement. Latvia has no framework agreement with Belarus and Russian Federation on cooperation in river basin management (ECE, 2009; EC, 2012).
In 2003 and 2004, several seminars were held for Baltic experts to discuss identification of river basin districts, proposed typology and characteristics of surface water. Even if they have not led to a harmonized typology, experts had a regular information exchange with neighbouring colleagues. In 2003, permanent working groups were established in accordance with the agreements concluded between the Ministries of the Environment of Latvia and Lithuania and of Latvia and Estonia (LEGMA, 2005).
Latvia and Estonia cooperate on establishing, updating and implementing water management plans for the cross-border Gauja/Koiva river basin. This joint project also supports the preparation of a joint water management plan, combining the water management plans of the two countries. The first river basin management plans were produced separately (MoE of Estonia, 2015).
The Nemunas RBD is shared with two EU Member States, Poland and Lithuania, and two non-EU countries, Belarus and the Russian Federation (Kaliningrad oblast). The governments of Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Belarus, and the European Commission have initiated the preparation of an agreement on cooperation in the use and protection of water bodies within the Nemunas River Basin District (RBD). A draft agreement has been drawn up but has not been signed yet. No measures have been foreseen for Poland and Latvia, because the part of the Nemunas RBD in Poland constitutes only 287 km² (the upstream reaches of the rivers with no significant pressures), and the part of the RBD in Latvia constitutes only 100 km² (the upstream reaches of the rivers with no significant pressures), and the results of water quality monitoring showed that the ecological status of the rivers along the Polish and Latvian border were good.