Cross-border nature conservation instead of barbed wire

The three mayors of the municipalities Pustec (Albania), Resen (Macedonia) and Prespes (Greece) sent a strong message in favour of cross-border cooperation for the protection of the Balkan Green Belt.

© Fejmi Daut

Conservationists set example against isolationist politics and nationalism on Balkan Peninsula +++ First international European Green Belt Day on 24/09/2016

 

Press release from 26 September 2016

Radolfzell.  Last Saturday conservationists, citizens and local decision-makers from nine countries in Southeast Europe have set an example in cross-border cooperation for the protection of the European natural heritage. They celebrated the first international European Green Belt Day across borders with a multitude of events and initiatives in several locations along the erstwhile Iron Curtain between the former states of the Eastern Bloc and Yugoslavia as well as Albania. “Many countries in Southeast Europe are currently tightening their borders and experiencing a rise in nationalistic tendencies. The cross-border projects for the protection of the European Green Belt demonstrate that there are better options: cooperation and common visions instead of isolationism and national egoisms”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of nature conservation foundation EuroNatur, which is active in the whole of Europe.

The largest event took place in Oteševo, Macedonia, at the Great Prespa Lake in the border triangle of Albania, Macedonia and Greece. While The region was not easily accessibly during the Cold War, today it is one of the ecologically most valuable sections of the European Green Belt on the Balkan Peninsula. This was also the place where the three mayors of the municipalities Resen (Macedonia), Pustec (Albania) and Prespes (Greece) met on Saturday in order to send a strong message in favour of cross-border cooperation for the protection of the unique lake region. “The relationship between Macedonia and Greece has been strained for years. The fact that we managed to get decision-makers of both of these countries on board in order to foster cooperation for the protection of the region can be counted as a great success”, says Gabriel Schwaderer.

In cooperation with its partners, EuroNatur has been working towards preparing, establishing, and interconnecting cross-border nature reserves along the Balkan Green Belt for over ten years. The foundation brings together conservationists and other interest groups from formerly hostile countries in the transnational projects in order to cooperatively develop and implement measures for the protection of nature. However, the ongoing construction of border fences in the Balkan Green Belt is threatening to nullify the previous successes. “A new barrier, which separates people and nature, is being built right where the Iron Curtain cut across the land in the past”, comments Gabriel Schwaderer.  

 

Background information:

  • The European Green Belt: The European Green Belt stretches over 12,500 km, a corridor of habitats with exceptional biodiversity along the former border between East and West from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. Europe’s most ambitious conservationists initiative so far intends to transform the former Iron Curtain into a line of life. Thus, it significantly contributes to the preservation of our continent’s green infrastructure. Along the Green Belt, wild forests and marshes, biodiverse cultural landscapes, and untamed mountain ranges and river lands exist in a way that has become rare in Europe. The European Green Belt interconnects eight biogeographical regions and 24 countries and stretches across the continent in four parts. The Balkan Green Belt is the southernmost section. 
  • “European Green Belt Day”:  The initiative celebrated the two-year anniversary of the “European Green Belt Association” with the first Green Belt Day on 24/09/2016. The association was founded by 23 governmental and non-governmental organisations from 14 countries in September 2014. For the first time, an official form of organisation represents the European Green Belt Initiative . EuroNatur acceded to the chairmanship of the association with the German environmentalist association BUND as deputy chair. This year, the Green Belt Day focusses on the Balkan Green Belt. The activities are planned to be extended to the entire European Green Belt in the following years.
  • Programme for Green Belt Day on 24/09/2016 


Further information: EuroNatur, Konstanzer Str. 22, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany, phone: +49 (0)7732 - 92 72 10, Fax: +49 (0)7732 - 92 72 22, E-Mail: info@euronatur.org, contact person: Gabriel Schwaderer, press contact: Katharina Grund

 

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