23-26 September 2014, Slavonice (Czech Republic)
More than 100 participants from 23 countries adjacent to the former Iron Curtain – the European Green Belt – as well as from Canada and the U.S. met at the Centre for the Future in Slavonice (Czech Republic) for the 8th Pan-European Green Belt Conference (23-26 September 2014): Press release.
Establishment of the European Green Belt Association e.V.
A milestone of the Slavonice Conference has been the establishment of the European Green Belt Association by 23 organisations from 14 countries. Governmental organizations (GOs) and Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) together established the European Green Belt Association. The new elected board consists of EuroNatur (chair), BUND (deputy chair), Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Germany (BfN), Ministry of Environment Finland, Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, Environmental Partnership Czech Republic and IUCN. Before establishment of the new association, the umbrella structure for cooperating GOs and NGOs has been a loose network. Now a legal body is established representing the initiative and ensuring coordination as well as information exchange among the European Green Belt community.
Regional priorities identified
In the very inspiring premises of the Centre for the Future the multinational attendees identified 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. Useful input was given by two key note speeches about the “Importance of ecological connectivity and opportunities along the European Green Belt” by Prof. Dr. Andrew Gregory (Bowling Green State University, United States) and about “The European Green Belt and its ecosystem services as positive factor for biodiversity?” by Jenny Schmidt (Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Germany). The basics for the future programme of work of the European Green Belt Association and Initiative were developed: In several interactive working sessions the participants of the conference identified transnational fields of work and long term aims which the initiative should deal with to secure the sustainable protection and development of the Green Belt: awareness raising and lobbying, trans-boundary management of protected areas, ecosystem services and nature tourism were only a few topics intensively discussed.
Results of the R&D-Project “Advancing the European Green Belt Initiative” presented
With contributions from the Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative the project managers from BUND Project Office Green Belt and EuroNatur presented the results of the 3-years project supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with means of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. For more information about the project results please see the presentations here: Communication, Governance and Funding Structure.
In the light of the new developments around national park Šumava (Czech Republic) Dr. Jaromír Blaha from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí Duha) spontaneously gave a presentation on "Šumava: a precedent case of European natural heritage protection - the role of NGOs" in the plenary.
New comprehensive brochure presented
The Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative also presented a just published comprehensive and richly illustrated brochure containing latest information about the European Green Belt, its wilderness, nature and beauty, but also about recent threats and obstacles: Download here
Memorandum of Understanding between European Green Belt Initiative and European Cyclist Federation (ECF)
The evening before the official start of the conference the Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative and the European Cyclist Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) on the European Green Belt and the Iron Curtain Trail (EuroVelo 13). Gabriel Schwaderer (EuroNatur), chair of the Coordination Group and Daniel Mourek, Vice-President of the European Cyclist Foundation, signed the Memorandum. 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 ICT/EuroVelo13 to the participants in a comprehensive presentation.
Green Belt for gourmets – the “Green Belt Fair”
The official part of the conference ended with the “Green Belt Fair”. Participants presented activities and projects as well as specialities from their Green Belt regions: Typical cheese, sausage, wine, bread, sweets and more from all along the four regions Fennoscandia, Baltic, Central European and Balkan showing the cultural richness and diversity along the Green Belt complemented by sweets from Ontario region in Canada.
Green Belt for explorers
At the last day of the conference a widespread excursion program was offered. Two excursion groups around Slavonice – one of them by bikes - explored the rich cultural and historical heritage of the region but also the natural values. Two other excursions were conducted in the trans-boundary national park Thayatal/Podyjí (Austria/Czech Republic). The excursions were organized and guided by Centre for the Future and Czech Environmental Partnership Association (nadace partnerství).