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8th Pan-European Green Belt Conference

8th Pan-European Green Belt Conference

07.10.2014
More than 100 participants from 23 countries adjacent to the former Iron Curtain in Europe, as well as from the U.S. and Canada took part in the event. The conference was hosted by the Centre for the Future.
 
The most significant event at the Conference was the establishment of the European Green Belt Association headquartered in Berlin, Germany. A total of 23 governmental and non-governmental organizations from 14 countries, including “Green Balkans – Stara Zagora” NGO, became founder members of the new organization intended to improve the coordination as well as the information exchange among the participants in this initiative. A board was elected consisting of 7 organizations: EuroNatur Germany (chair), BUND Germany (deputy chair), Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Germany (BfN), Ministry of Environment Finland, Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, Environmental Partnership Czech Republic and IUCN.
 
The program of the conference began with two interesting lectures: “Importance of ecological connectivity and opportunities along the European Green Belt” by Prof. Dr. Andrew Gregory (Bowling Green State University, United States) and “The European Green Belt and its ecosystem services as positive factor for biodiversity” by Jenny Schmidt (Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Germany). The members of the coordination group of the initiative presented the results of the 3-years project “Advancing the European Green Belt Initiative”.
 
The regional priorities for further implementation of activities, improvement of their network as well as future needs for conservation and enhancement of the European Green Belt were identified by the established working groups. The basics for the future program of work of the newly established Association were developed. The topics that were discussed included awareness raising and lobbying, trans-boundary management of protected areas, ecosystem services and nature tourism. Unfortunately, it turned out that the infringement upon the statute of significant protected areas was a problem other countries face, too. Dr. Jaromír Blaha from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic gave a presentation explaining the recent developments related to Shumava National Park (Czech Republic), harboring some of the most significant spruce forests in Central Europe. In recent years, however, because of the woodworm beetle, an active felling campaign has been carried out in some of the oldest forests within the park, reducing its core area, where no human impact should be allowed. Aggressive investment plans for the establishment of ski resorts cause further problems. Moreover, several directors of the national park had been appointed and then dismissed in order to facilitate the approval and the realization of the investment plans. This case is quite similar to the developments in Pirin National Park in the past 10 years. 
 
Memorandum of Understanding between European Green Belt Initiative and European Cyclist Federation (ECF) was signed during the conference. Michael Cramer, member of the European Parliament, chair of the EU-Committee on Transport and Tourism as well as initiator of the Iron Curtain Trail (ICT) presented the cycling route designated as ICT/EuroVelo13.
 
The last evening was dedicated to the “Green Belt Fair”, where the participants presented the activities they implement in the target area. “Green Balkans – Stara Zagora” NGO presented their ongoing project “Greater chance for Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) in Bulgaria – Lesser Kestrel Recovery", LIFE11 NAT/BG/360, implemented with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union. The main goal of the project is restoring the Lesser Kestrel as a breeding species in Bulgaria, and the project activities take place in Sakar SPA, situated within the Green Belt along the Bulgarian-Turkish national border.
 
For further information, please contact:
Dimitar Popov: dpopov@greenbalkans.org
Gradimir Gradev: ggradev@greenbalkans.org