European Green Belt
Along the former Iron Curtain, which separated the European continent in East and West for nearly 40 years, an outstanding ecological network and living memorial landscape developed. Despite its inhumanity, the border zone granted nature a pause for breath along more than 12,500 kilometers from the Barents Sea at the Russian-Norwegian border, along the Baltic Coast, through Central Europe and the Balkans to the Black Sea.
Unwittingly the once-divided Europe supported the conservation and development of valuable habitats. The border area served as a retreat for many endangered species. Already in the 1970ies conservationists in several areas of Europe drew their attention to the flourishing nature and wildlife proliferated undisturbed.
The establishment of the European Green Belt Initiative in 2003 was a merging of different existing regional initiatives to one European initiative. Today the Green Belt connects 24 countries, is a backbone of a Pan-European ecological network and renders a significant contribution to the European ‘Green Infrastructure’. It is a symbol for transboundary cooperation and a common European natural and cultural heritage. The outstanding importance of the ecological corridor is apparent: 40 national parks are situated directly along the European Green Belt. More than 3,200 protected nature areas can be found within a 50 kilometers buffer on either side of the Green Belt. It crosses nearly all European bio-geographical regions.
The European Green Belt includes four organizational regions: Fennoscandian, Baltic, Central European and Balkan. The overall steering is done by a coordination group with members from all regions. Each section is coordinated by a regional coordinator and in every country National Focal Points are persons in charge. In 2014 European Green Belt Association was established in order to represent the initiative as well as to provide coordination and information exchange within the European Green Belt community.
Declaration of Intent on the European Green Belt
On the national levels the European Green Belt initiative experiences strong support. On the occasion of the 10 Years Anniversary a Declaration of Intent (DoI) was signed. Currently 18 countries have signed the DoI and thus have officially committed themselves to continue their engagement to support the initiative. Two countries sent letters of support (Serbia, FYR Macedonia).
Countries who signed the DoI until now: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.
The Balkan countries became involved in 1999 when the Concept of the Balkan Green Belt was created. Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF) as a successor of the Bulgarian-Swiss Biodiversity Conservation Programme (1994-2004) works for nature conservation and sustainable development in the border regions. Since 2006 BBF became involved in implementation and awareness raising activities within the Green Belt Initiative as it cooperates with national, regional and local authorities, academic institutions and NGOs in Bulgaria and the neighboring countries.
European Green Belt Association e.V.
The European Green Belt Association e.V. was established during the 8th Pan-European Green Belt Conference in Slavonice (Czech Republic) in September 2014 by 23 organisations, GO and NGO, from 14 countries. The Association was officially registered in February 2015.
Before establishment of the new association, the umbrella structure for cooperating GOs and NGOs has been a loose network. Now a legal body is established representing the initiative and ensuring coordination as well as information exchange among the European Green Belt community.
The vision of the European Green Belt Association e.V. may be described as follows:
The European Green Belt, our shared natural heritage along the line of the former Iron Curtain, is to be conserved and restored to function as an ecological network connecting high-value natural and cultural landscapes, whilst respecting the economic, social and cultural needs of local communities.
The mission of the European Green Belt Association e.V. is to ensure that the European Green Belt is efficiently protected and that its sustainable development is promoted by facilitating an on-going, co-ordinated transboundary co-operation at all levels and across all sectors of society (cf. Statutes of the European Green Belt Association, Preamble).
The board of the European Green Belt Assocaiation e.V. consists of 7 organizations:
BUND, Friends of the Earth Germany, deputy chair
Ministry of Environment Finland
Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation
Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Germany (BfN)
Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (BBF)
IUCN, consultant In the EGBA Board the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation is represented by Mr. Petko Tzvetkov
More information about the European Green Belt and the Association could be found at: http://www.europeangreenbelt.org