The Green Belt: Borders separate. Nature unites!

A whinchat on a former GDR boundary post. Photo: Th. Stephan

The Iron Curtain divided Europe for nearly forty years. From the Barents to the Black Sea, there ran a political, ideological and physical barrier which displayed its inhumanity most strongly in Germany. Barbed wire, walls and mines separated East and West, families and friends. This brutal border allowed nature some breathing space to regenerate. Not only in Germany, but everywhere along the borders, valuable habitats have been preserved as a refuge for rare plants and animals. This unique network of habitats winds its way for more than 12,500 km along the path of the former Iron Curtain, 1,393 km of this through Germany - a lifeline - the Green Belt!

As early as 14 years before the Iron Curtain fell, experts of the Bavarian branch of the BUND had become aware of birdlife within the inner German border strip. They discovered a large variety of species and habitats. Since 1989, the BUND has been active in preserving the Green Belt, along with other organisations and government departments.

Based on the Green Belt Germany, the fascinating idea of the Green Belt Europe was developed. The Green Belt could become the backbone of an ecological network right across Europe. In addition, it is a symbol of unification between East and West - and of cross-border cooperation. The Green Belt connects people beyond frontiers and shows that a unified Europe possesses not only a cultural heritage, but also a mutual natural heritage.

The Green Belt in a monotonous agricultural landscape, southern Harz foothills, Mackenrode. Photo: K. Leidorf