Tisza Basin

The Tisza River can be viewed in three main segments:

  • The mountainous Upper Tisza in Ukraine, upstream of the Ukrainian-Hungarian border along the border with Romania
  • The Middle Tisza in Hungary, which is joined by large tributaries including the Bodrog and the Slaná/Sajó (both fed by water from the Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia and Ukraine), as well as the Somes/Szamos, the Crisul/Körös River System and the Mures/Maros from Transylvania
  • The Lower Tisza in Serbia downstream of the Hungarian-Serbian border, fed directly by the Bega/Begej, and indirectly by other tributaries via the Danube–Tisza–Danube Canal System

History of the Tisza River Basin Cooperation

Under the EU’s WFD, the ICPDR is the platform for coordination for the implementation of the provisions of the Directive between Danube countries (including non-EU Member States). In addition to Danube River Basin planning, the ICPDR also takes an active role in sub-basin planning. One of the key objectives of the WFD is to ensure that all waters meet “good status” at latest by 2027 - and to retain it afterwards. The work towards this follows management plans updated at 6-year intervals. The elaboration of the first Tisza River Basin Management Plan was started in 2005, the plan was adopted in 2010 and endorsed at a ministerial meeting in 2011.

The Tisza Group

At the first ministerial meeting of the ICPDR countries held in December 2004, ministers and high-level representatives of the five Tisza countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding, establishing the ICPDR Tisza Group for coordination as well as implementation of an international integrated Tisza River Basin cooperation under the umbrella of the ICPDR. The ICPDR Tisza Group held its first meeting in 2005 and has been meeting regularly since then. It strengthens coordination and information exchange in the Tisza River Basin and ensures harmonisation and effectiveness of related efforts.

The ICPDR’s Tisza Group countries agreed on preparing a sub-basin plan (the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan), which integrates issues on water quality and water quantity, land and water management, floods and droughts.

A first milestone in the implementation of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding was the 2007 Tisza Analysis Report. This report:

  • characterizes Tisza River and basin,
  • identifies the key environmental and water management problems in relation to water quality and water quantity, and
  • creates the basis for further steps forward.

On 16th February 2010, ministers and high-level representatives from Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia adopted the 'Ministerial Statement towards the development and implementation of a River Basin Management Plan for the Tisza River Basin'.

On 11th April 2011 a revised Memorandum of Understanding was signed by high representatives of the Tisza Countries in Uzghorod (Ukraine) on the occasion of the ICPDR’s Ukrainian Presidency.

The JOINTISZA Project (2017-2019)

a large group of people standing on a porch together holding up signs that show the JOINTISZA Project

The aim of JOINTISZA (2017-2019) was to strengthen cooperation between river basin management planning and flood risk prevention to enhance the status of waters of the Tisza river basin.

A long-term goal of the project was to generate momentum for improved implementation of the EU’s Floods and Water Framework Directives, targeting four specific groups:

  • National water administrations,
  • Water research institutes,
  • International organizations and
  • Other interested stakeholders, and NGOs.

The ICPDR ensured the utilisation of the already existing DanubeGIS system, for the JOINTISZA project use, and facilitated the expansion of the database with information about tributaries of the Tisza River Basin larger than 1000m². The most significant outcome of the project was the preparation of the revision of the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan (ITRBMP) in 2019, which already included primary aspects of the Floods Directive. The project’s pilot actions, focusing on urban hydrology management and drought management, will enable the actors involved to develop new approaches unprecedented in a comparable environment, and contribute to the updated management plan.

The closing event of the project saw joint planting of trees and the creation of the JOINTISZA grove.

On 26th September 2019, to mark the closing of the JOINTISZA project, a high-level Ministerial meeting in Budapest endorsed the updated ITRBMP. During this meeting, the Tisza MoU was further updated and reinforced, demonstrating the continuing commitment of the Tisza countries to the cooperation in the Tisza River Basin including the implementation of the Joint Programme of Measures.

several men in business suits sitting at a table in front of a screenseveral men and women in business suits standing by flags of different countries in a lobby

(Above: Tisza Ministerial Meeting 2019, Budapest)




  • » Tisza Group
    At the first ministerial meeting of the ICPDR countries held in December 2004, ministers and high-level representatives of the five Tisza countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding, establishing the ICPDR Tisza Group for coordination as well as implementation of an international integrated Tisza River Basin cooperation under the umbrella of the ICPDR. After 15 years of successful cooperation the ICPDR Tisza Group will focus on the implementation of the updated ITRBMP.
  • » UNDP/GEF Tisza MSP
    The Tisza Basin has been subject to significant anthropogenic impacts that have resulted in a degraded system, particularly in terms of pollution and the loss of floodplains and wetlands. The present project is focusing on the development of strategies and implementation of demo project to test the multiple environmental benefits of wetlands to mitigate impacts of floods/droughts and help to reduce nutrient pollution.
  • » Tisza Investigation
    The investigation of the Tisza River was a follow-up project of the Joint Danube Survey 2001 organised by the ICPDR. The objective of the survey was to investigate the water quality along the river and to promote public awareness. The countries participating at the survey include Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Serbia and Montenegro.
  • » Ukraine
    Three sub-basins of the Danube are partly located in Ukraine - the Tisza, Prut and Siret basins, as well as part of the Danube Delta. Furthermore, 2.7 million people live in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Basin, which is 3.3% of the total Danube Basin District. Ukraine has been a Signatory State to the Danube River Protection Convention since 1994. The Convention was ratified by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2002.
  • » Slovakia
    Located in the Carpathian Mountains, the Slovak Republic shares borders with Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. Water management in Slovakia is determined by its geographic position on the watershed divide between the Black and Baltic Seas. The Danube and its tributaries drain 96% of the country into the Black Sea.
  • » Hungary
    Hungary as a landlocked country is situated within the heart of the Danube Basin. The entire territory (93,030 km2) is found in the Basin. Rivers enter the country from the west, north and east and flow towards the south. Almost one fifth of the 9,8 million inhabitants live in the capital, Budapest - the City of Spas – which lies on the banks of the Danube. Lake Balaton in the west, the largest lake of the Danube Basin, is a recreational area for the country. Hungary became a Signatory Party to the Danube River Protection Convention (DRPC) in 1994 and joined the EU in 2004.
  • » Romania
    The Danube is very significant to Romania, since the country is located almost entirely within the Danube River Basin. The Romanian section covers almost a third of the surface area of the Basin, and over a third of the river’s length flows through the country. Crucially, the Romanian (and also Ukrainian) Danube is the end carrier of all wastewater discharges into the Black Sea.
  • » Serbia
    The Republic of Serbia covers an area of 88,499 km² and includes two provinces: Vojvodina (21,614 km²) and Kosovo and Metohija (10,910 km²); the latter being currently under an international protectorate. Approximately 92% of the country lies within the Danube Basin (accounting for 10% of the total Basin). Of this land, 30% is forested. With more than 90% of Serbia’s renewable water resources originating from outside national territory, international cooperation on water issues is crucial for sustainable water management.
  • » Tisza Basin Cooperation
    Article in Danube Watch 02/2006
  • » Good for people, business, nature – successes from along the Tisza
    ICPDR Danube Watch: Four years ago Danube Watch reported on WWF’s plans for harmonising economic development with environmental improvements through its then new programme One Europe, More Nature. Promising ‘new perspectives for the Tisza river basin’, the initiative has delivered new jobs, new income, new business, new products and services, new green electricity – and new nature.


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