An extraordinary ecological network and living memorial landscape has been developed along the former Iron Curtain, which divided the European continent into East and West for nearly 40 years. Along more than 12,500 kilometres – from the Barents Sea at the Russian-Norwegian border, along the Baltic Coast, through Central Europe and the Balkans to the Black Sea – the border zone granted nature a pause. Unwittingly, the once-divided Europe encouraged the conservation and development of valuable habitats. The border area served as a retreat for many endangered species.
Today the Green Belt forms the backbone of the Pan-European ecological network and provides a significant contribution to the European ‘Green Infrastructure’.
The European Green Belt connects 16 EU countries, four candidate countries (Serbia, Montenegro, Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia, Turkey), two potential candidates (Kosovo, Albania) and two non-EU countries (Russia and Norway). Almost 150 governmental and non-governmental organisations from these countries have come together in the Green Belt Initiative. The European Green Belt Initiative was born in 2003, when various existing regional initiatives merged into one European initiative. Besides its extraordinary ecological importance, the initiative is a living example of how Europe and its diverse cultures can truly grow together. From the European Green Belt, we can learn that biological diversity goes hand in hand with cultural diversity. It is a symbol for transboundary cooperation and a Europe’s shared natural and cultural heritage.
The Green Belt connects National Parks, Nature Parks, Biosphere Reserves and transboundary protected areas as well as non-protected areas along or across borders, and promotes regional development initiatives in the field of nature conservation.