German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


The European Green Belt

European Green Belt

The European Green Belt has evolved along the former Iron Curtain and runs the length of Europe, from the Barents Sea in the north to the Adriatic and the Black Sea in the south. In all, it extends for over 12,500 km along the borders of 24 states.

Together with international partners, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation has launched a process of cross-border cooperation along the entire length of the European Green Belt to preserve and nurture it as the backbone of a European ecological network.

Map of the European Green Belt
Map tracing the European Green Belt from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea

This initiative shall help launch and promote cross-border nature conservation efforts, encourage sustainable regional development and overcome historical divisions. It provides an opportunity to improve cooperation on nature conservation between existing EU Member States, accession states, candidates, potential candidates, and Russia.

The European Green Belt can also play a key role in achieving coherence within the Natura 2000 protected areas network (read more about the "european greenbelt initiative").

Origin and development of the initiative

The first international conference on the European Green Belt was held in Bonn in July 2003. The vision of a European Green Belt met with broad approval and received pledges of support from experts and policymakers alike ("Perspectives of the Green Belt", BfN-Skripten 102). 

Jointly hosted by BfN, IUCN and Hungary’s Fertö-Hanság national park, the second international conference on the European Green Belt was held on the banks of Lake Neusiedl in September 2004. The main outcome of the conference was a Programme of Work (PDF, 1.4 MB) setting out the goals, tasks and working structure of the international working group.

The conference outcomes were published in book form by the IUCN (Terry et al. 2006). The book offers the first comprehensive survey of the diverse regions and facets relating to the Green Belt, ranging from nature conservation to regional development and from tourism to transboundary cooperation.

BfN has since continued to provide professional and financial support for pan-European and regional workshops along the various segments of the Green Belt and serves as the so-called National Focal Point of Germany.

10th anniversary of the European Green Belt Initiative

Botton "10 Jahre Europäisches Grünes Band Initiative"

The 10th anniversary of the European Green Belt Initiative was celebrated with three international events on 15th and 16th May 2013 in Berlin, Germany: At a jubilee event in the German Ministry for the Environment (BMU) on 15th May several ministers, ambassadors and further representatives of the 24 adjacent states received a Green Belt award for their commitment and as incentive to strengthen the activities for the Green Belt. The price was awarded by BUND and EuroNatur on behalf of the Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative.

A chronology of the most important milestones of the initiative can be found here.

Several of the appointed representatives underlined their political will to support the pan-European initiative: An official Joint Declaration of Intent was signed by ten states during the event. By now sixteen states, namely Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia have signed the declaration. Two countries, Serbia and FYR Macedonia, sent letters of support.

receiving the Green Belt Award

In the evening of the 15th about 90 people, stakeholders of the 24 European Green Belt countries and a delegation from South-Korea met at the GreenNet Evening Reception in the history-charged Berlin Wall Memorial. The reception was dedicated to deepening international cooperation and exchange. Several welcome speeches addressed the wide range of activities within the GreenNet-project, taking place in six Central European countries, the Pan-European initiative as well as interesting insights from the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Highlights were guided tours through the Berlin Wall Memorial and the world premiere of the European Green Belt Band, playing traditional music from the regions but reinterpreted.

The anniversary celebrations were followed by an international symposium on 16th May in the German Ministry for the Environment. Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, welcomed the participants via video message and pointed out the great potential of the European Green Belt for building a Green Infrastructure across the continent. In the course of the conference achievements so far, but also future challenges and perspectives of the Green Belt Europe were presented and discussed.

Cooperation and coordination

Overall coordination of the European Green Belt was at first provided by the IUCN. To foster regional cooperation and cater to regional differences, and also for practical coordination purposes, the European Green Belt was initially divided into three main sections (Fennoscandia, Central Europe and South-Eastern Europe), each with its own regional coordinator. Regional coordination for Fennoscandia was provided by the Baltic Fund for Nature (BFN), for Central Europe by Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) and for South-Eastern Europe by EuroNatur. The environment ministries of most countries along the Green Belt also designated National Focal Points (NFPs). In Germany, this post is held by the BfN.

Coordination of the initiative was restructured after the IUCN withdrew from overall coordination in 2010. A fourth major segment was designated for the Baltic Sea region, with BUND Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as regional coordinator. Overall coordination of the initiative is now provided by a coordination group made up of the regional coordinators, one national focal point (NFP) and one national non-governmental organisation (NGO) for each region, and one IUCN representative acting in an advisory capacity. The coordination group and the organisations and individuals that make it up are governed by Terms of Reference (TOR).

EuroNatur and the BUND Green Belt Project Office are in the process of developing new ideas for the initiative’s long-term coordination, funding and communication in the research and development (R&D) project, ‘Advancing the European Green Belt Initiative’. Supported by BfN with BMU funding, the project runs from September 2011 to October 2014.

Example of a map extract of the border area Bavaria-Czech Republic north of the National Parks Bavarian Forest/Sumava
Map extract of the border area Bavaria-Czech Republic north of the National Parks Bavarian Forest/Sumava

Development of shared resources

The research and development project to create a Common Geo-Database for the European Green Belt: Central Europe established a scientific basis as a management tool for further Green Belt activities. The work also documents the importance of the Green Belt and serves in attracting support to achieve the initiative’s goals.

The project outcomes are available online in the form of interactive maps and posters.

Funding of specific projects

Balkan Lynx project area at the Shebenik-Jablanica National Park, Albania; photo: U. Riecken
Photo of Balkan Lynx project area at the Shebenik-Jablanica National Park, Albania; photo: U. Riecken

A range of other projects also serve the cause of conserving and fostering the Green Belt, among other things by funding activities carried out in cooperation with other organisations.

A EuroNatur project, Balkan Green Belt: Ecological corridor for bear, wolf, and lynx came to an end in 2006.

EuroNatur subsequently carried out a further project, Capacity Building for the Conservation of Biodiversity along the Balkan Green Belt, in cooperation with the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) from June 2008 to December 2009.

The IUCN and national partners have undertaken additional capacity building projects along the Balkan Green Belt, including All Along the Watchtowers (2008-2009) and Walk on the Wild Side (2009-2010).

Last Change: 19/12/2019