Balkan Green Belt

Where EuroNatur has particular experience

© Gunther Willinger
The Bulgarian-Turkish border: for many years this was a no-go area. © Gunther Willinger

Long before the idea for the European Green Belt was born, EuroNatur had been campaigning, as one of the first nature conservation organisations to do so, for the preservation of the natural paradises in South East Europe. A cross-border network of nature conservation partners was established over years. It is a network which still holds today as a valuable resource for the creation of effective protection measures. This is why since 2004 – within the wider framework of the European Green Belt - EuroNatur has been the official coordinator for nature conservation activities along the Balkan Green Belt, the southernmost section of the European Green Belt.

In its northern and central sections the European Green Belt follows the line of the former East-West divide but here on the Balkan peninsula it also follows borders between Albania and one-time Yugoslavia.

Dams in the National Park

Although significant parts of the Green Belt in the Balkans have already been granted legal protection this is not by any means the case for all. There are still important natural treasures along the former border between East and West which are urgently in need of official conservation status. One great problem is that so far even in already designated National Parks and strict Nature Reserves the aims of nature conservation have not been carried out to a sufficient degree. The reason for this is that they simply don't have the staff required to tackle these important tasks. At the same time other players are competing to use the land, putting the precious natural forms found in the Balkan Green Belt at risk. Major industrial projects such as dams, skiing areas, wind parks and motorways are exerting ever greater pressure. 

Creating a network of conservation areas

EuroNatur is campaigning for the protection along the one-time Iron Curtain of species-rich landscapes such as lakes, wetlands, mountain ranges and traditionally cultivated land. It is our vision to see one well cared-for conservation area linked to the next along the Balkan Green Belt creating a biotope network to spread across the whole Balkan peninsula.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partner organisations taking in the Balkan Green Belt?

  • Preparing and developing trans-boundary nature reserves: the Balkan Green Belt - as part of the wider European Green Belt Initiative- presents an opportunity to establish nature conservation across the national borders of once hostile countries. Our work crosses the borders to link up previously separate, unique natural regions and so contribute to the development of major nature reserves in alignment with international criteria in the hitherto inaccessible border areas.
  • Linking up nature reserves: It is not enough to protect ecological “islands” along the Balkan Green Belt in isolation from one another. We see to it that the reserves are linked by wildlife corridors.
  • Passing on valuable knowledge:  We train nature conservation partners in the countries along the Balkan Green Belt in the skills needed to prepare nature conservation designations and to carry out measures for the protection and management of large mammals such as Wolf, Bear and Lynx.
  • Strengthening local nature conservation organisations: The concept of the European Green Belt is fascinating. People are attracted to the idea. When local nature conservation organisations present their suggestions for nature conservation as being part of the Green Belt then decision makers respond more promptly and positively.
  • Bringing local people into the picture: to gain local people's understanding and backing in the project areas along the Balkan Green Belt and to achieve long-lasting success of nature conservation measures EuroNatur and partners work closely with the local population on concepts for the sustainable development of the region.
  • Reconciliation through working for nature: The Balkan Green Belt is a shining example. It proves that setting up successful nature conservation across national borders is conceivable and realizable. With our trans-boundary nature conservation projects we are contributing to bringing people together from countries once hostile to one another.
  • Coordinating efforts and creating a common understanding: we bring nature conservationists and decision makers together at international level to develop successful strategies for the protection of natural resources along the Balkan Green Belt

Partners:  BfN (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany), IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and numerous local partner organisations

Sponsoring: MAVA Foundation, BfN (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation), German Lufthansa

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Projects for the protection of the Balkan Green Belt

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Balkan lynx – the last few of its kind

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