EU Pilot Project Strengthens Nature Conservation at the European Green Belt

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On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down – the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain. 32 years later, the EU-funded project „BEST Belt“ aims to make it easier for local nature conservation organisations getting access to EU funds.

Border sign at the Bulgarian-Turkish border

Border sign at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The once strictly guarded border is a hotspot of biodiversity.

© Gunther Willinger
Flock of gulls Ulcinj Salina

Large flocks of birds (image: Mediterranean gulls and black-headed gulls) characterise many wetlands along the Balkan Green Belt, especially during migration season. This photo was taken in the Ulcinj Salina at the frontier from Montenegro to Albania.

© Peter Sackl
Young Albanian women plant hazelnut trees

Growing local fruit and nut trees on degraded land improves biodiversity, protects the soil from erosion and secures an additional income for the local people.

© Sandra Wigger

The project „BEST Belt“ is implemented with fundings from the European Union.

Radolfzell. Over the next four years, the European Commission will fund a new pilot project at the European Green Belt. 1.5 million Euros will be made available for specific projects along the Green Belt from Finland to Albania and Bulgaria. The project supports initiatives that preserve the biological diversity along the former Iron Curtain, and implement promising approaches for a sustainable regional development. Organisations are encouraged to submit applications for smaller nature conservation projects of up € 40,000 in funding. In addition to the financial support, organisations receive training and counselling on how to effectively implement the planned measures.

"This impulse from the European Parliament is not only very positive, it comes at exactly the right time," EuroNatur Executive Director Gabriel Schwaderer says. He continues that the European Green Belt is not only one of the largest nature conservation initiatives of our continent but also a project to further integrate and connect countries in Europe. “If we want to sustain biodiversity in Europe we must preserve the natural resources at the Green Belt. In addition, to counter the enormous dividing forces in Europe, we should strengthen our cooperation across borders. Both works best if we involve local organisations with their know-how as well as the people who live at the Green Belt,” he says.

The official contractual partner of this project is EuroNatur. The nature conservation foundation, who operates on an international level, chairs the “European Green Belt Association” (EGBA) and holds responsibility for this project. Furthermore, EuroNatur is the regional coordinator of the section Balkan Green Belt. The EGBA is the ideal institutional framework for effective cooperation across national and administrative borders.


Background information:

  • European Green Belt: In the shadow of the former Iron Curtain, a unique biotope system with an amazing biodiversity has developed. It is habitat for Europe‘s large mammals as well as for countless endangered invertebrates and plant species. However, the pressure on the Green Belt is growing: habitats are destroyed, poaching and non-sustainable tourism are increasing.
  • „BEST Belt“: Based on the successful European Life4BEST-Initiative, who supported projects to sustain the natural heritage in European overseas regions, the „BEST Belt“ campaign (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and Training along the European Green Belt) now focusses on countries along the European Green Belt. The project is set for four years.
  • The first call for fundings of specific projects along the European Green Belt is planned for February / March 2022. To stay informed, please subscribe to the EGBA-Newsletter.

Contact: Christian Stielow, christian.stielow(at)euronatur.org, Tel.: +49 (0)7732 – 92 72 15

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