Iron Curtain turns Green Belt in the Balkans

23 October 2008 | News story

South-Eastern European partners of the European Green Belt initiative focus on transboundary cooperation  

The second meeting of the South-Eastern European partners of the European Green Belt reconfirmed that the Green Belt initiative holds a unique position, focusing on transboundary cooperation in nature conservation and regional development along the former Iron Curtain. „Mapping Synergies – Branding Ideas“- the motto of the meeting brought together about 50 participants from the countries along the South-Eastern European Green Belt. In addition to long-term partners, new participants from several countries from the region joined the initiative.The meeting focused on the Green Belt in South-Eastern Europe, including sharing experience on the last five years of the initiative’s existence and on the numerous activities carried out while paying special attention to the future development of the initiative.

Participants visited a very positive example of transboundary cooperation in nature conservation and regional development in the Belasitsa trilateral border area between Bulgaria, Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia. During the Belasitsa International Forum hosted by the local municipality of Petrich, the partners from Kerkini National Park (Greece), Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and the NGO Planetum (Strumica, F.Y.R. Macedonia) presented their joint efforts in this trilateral border area and celebrated the newest Nature Park in Bulgaria – Belasitsa Nature Park proclaimed November 2007. A folk group from Samuilovo village in the foothills of Belasitsa mountains presented folk dance and vocal singing as a part of the rich cultural heritage in the region.

The European Green Belt initiative has the vision to create the backbone of an ecological network, running from the Barents to the Black Sea that is a global symbol for transboundary cooperation in nature conservation and sustainable development. 23 countries across Europe are adjoining the course of the former Iron Curtain along some 12.500 km, cooperating to preserve the natural heritage of the Cold War times. The route of the Green Belt is divided into three regional sections. One of them is the South Eastern European section, including border sections of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

Since the start of the initiative in 2003, several meetings on regional and pan-European level have helped to implement its goals and to exchange experiences within its network. The meeting was organized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the implementing partner, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation BBF, in partnership with the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, and with the financial support of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Andrea Strauss, European Green Belt Coordination Office, IUCN SEE
andrea.strauss@iucn.org; www.europeangreenbelt.org

IUCN SEE Office
Tel: +381 11 2272 411, see@iucn.org; www.iucn.org/southeasterneurope