Pan-European Green Belt Conference sets signals for cross-border nature conservation

News 2016-11-07 at 18:00

The 9th Pan-European Green Belt Conference sent a clear message for cross-border cooperation in European nature conservation and for a stronger connection between human beings and nature. More than 125 representatives of nature conservation administrations and organisations, scientists and nature conservationists met from 31 October to 3 November in Koli National Park in Finland, not far from the Russian border, to intensify cross-border cooperation along the European Green Belt. The eponymous initiative is currently the most ambitious one in Europe. It intends to transform the former Iron Curtain into a line of life and thus makes a substantial contribution to the preservation of the green infrastructure of our continent.

The analysis of the conference participants clearly shows that throughout Europe precious habitats are strongly fragmented. Especially traffic routes and settlements, but also intensive forms of use in agriculture and forestry contribute to a fragmentation of high-quality natural areas. According to experts, global and European goals of biodiversity conservation will only be achieved, if the European Union, its member states and also neighbouring countries massively increase their investments in European green infrastructure. Special attention should be given to the connection between precious habitats. “There is an urgent need for a green infrastructure programme. It should be as near as possible to comparable EU investment programmes for grey infrastructure”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of the nature conservation foundation EuroNatur, representatively for the conference participants. The European Green Belt already pays back these investments through extensive services: a study in Finland showed that public investments in nature conservation along the Fennoscandian Green Belt pay off ten times the invested amount to local income.

Another expert recommendation of the conference participants is addressed to all states along the European Green Belt: The European Green Belt needs urgent consideration in their spatial planning systems. This is the only way to preserve the connection between habitats along the Green Belt effectively and restore it where needed.

Following the expert conference the 30 member organisations of the European Green Belt Association adopted an action plan for the next two years. In addition, the board of the association was newly elected. Ten organisations now belong to the board, including the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the Finnish and Albanian Ministry of Environment, IUCN, as well as NGOs from Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany. EuroNatur Foundation was elected as Chair of the European Green Belt Association and BUND as Deputy Chair.

Inquiries

Kristiina Niikkonen, Environment Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment, firstname.lastname@ym.fi, +358 295 250 198

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