Green Belt Europe - the story of an European challenge
During the "Pan-European Picnic" on 19th August 1989, a crucial hole was cut into the Iron Curtain between Hungary and Austria. 15 years later, in September 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation invited people to this historic site for an international conference in the cross-border Fertö-Hanság/Lake Neusiedl National Park. Over 70 participants from 17 countries gathered here. The objective of the conference was to bring the idea of the "Green Belt Europe" closer to those bordering countries and to international experts. There were lively discussions on the future development of the Green Belt, and what it could achieve in terms of nature conservation and a sustainable future of Europe.
The European Green Belt has various origins. In the year 2002 BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) firstly suggested the creation of a Green Belt all along the former Iron Curtain. At a celebration in the Eichsfeld together with a crucial protagonist in the "political change", Michail Gorbachev, the president of the BUND Hubert Weiger called out for the first time in public for the implementation "of a Green Belt running through Europe, as a symbol of reunification between East and West".
The three main origins - beside the many local initiatives and activities - of the European Green Belt initiative are - from north to south - the activities along the Fennoscandian Green Belt, the German Green Belt and along the Green Belt in the Balkans.
An important impulse in implementing the initiative for the European Green Belt has come from the Bundesamt für Naturschutz [Federal Agency for Nature Conservation]. In 2003, it organised the first international conference in Bonn. Various preliminary initiatives in Fennoscandia and in the Balkans were also presented here. That was the starting signal. Shortly before the EU eastern enlargement in April 2004, the BUND project office organised a press trip along the European Green Belt, together with the Austrian League for Nature Conservation and Euronatur (European Nature Heritage Fund): From the starting point of the Green Belt in Germany, in Hof (Bavaria) right into the border triangle of Austria / Slovenia / Italy. The reaction among the local population, as well as in politics and the media, has been immense.
By now, the Green Belt is attracting attention worldwide. The 248 km-log "Demilitarised Zone" between North and South Korea also has a similar potential for nature conservation as the former Iron Curtain. If the two states should ever be reunified, the Green Belt could again set an example and help to rewrite history once more.