In the period from 16 to 19 November 2011 more than 50 representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations met in Ulcinj, Montenegro, to discuss the future of the Green Belt in South-Eastern Europe. The meeting was organized by EuroNatur with the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, and the German Federal Environment Agency.
Large parts of the South Eastern European Green Belt are under official protection. Nevertheless, there are important natural treasures along the former border between East and West that urgently need to be conserved. These areas are important retreats for many endangered animal and plant species. “One of the main tasks of nature conservation in Europe is to safeguard the natural treasures along the Green Belt by proclaiming national and nature parks. We therefore call upon all governments of the countries along the Balkan Green Belt to take action and to protect these important elements of the European natural heritage. Large devastating infrastructure projects which endanger and fragment this important European ecological network should not be allowed”, demands Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur Foundation closing the conference.
Preceded by meetings in Novi Sad, Serbia and Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, this was the third regional meeting of the South Eastern European Green Belt community. One of the main problems pointed out by participants was the lack of functioning administrations in national parks and strict nature reserves which are crucial for the monitoring of compliance with the protection targets and the development of nature areas. In addition, the pressure on the valuable natural treasures along the Green Belt caused by large scale infrastructure projects such as dams, ski areas, wind parks and long distance roads, constantly increases. “The Green Belt is one of the most prominent conservation initiatives in Europe. Its South East European section features some of the key natural sites to be found all along the route. Our joint task is to safeguard this exceptional natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of all communities sharing the Green Belt vision”, says Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Programme Office for South-Eastern Europe.
Based on the activities for the preservation of the Green Belt in Germany which started as early as 1989, the idea of a European Green Belt – running along the former Iron Curtain from the Barents Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South – evolved. The European initiative started with a first international meeting 2003 in Bonn. During a second international conference in September 2004, a Programme of Work as well as a coordination structure for the initiative was developed and decided upon by all participants. IUCN was appointed as overall coordinator. Additionally, for each geographical section, a Regional Coordinator was called in: the Baltic Fund for Nature (BFN) assigned by the Association of Zapovedniks and National parks of North-West Russia is in charge of the Fennoscandian and the Baltic States, BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) of the Central European and EuroNatur of the southernmost stretch, the Balkan Green Belt. In most countries located along the European Green Belt, a National Focal Point was appointed, in most instances by the relevant Ministries. Today, a wide range of NGOs, GOs and expert groups in the 24 countries along the Green Belt is involved in the realization of this pan-European vision.
For more information please contact Annette Spangenberg, Project Manager, EuroNatur.