An International Conference on nature conservation in the border regions was held in Haskovo

Mai 16, 2024
BESTbelt Balkan Regional Conference was held on 14th – 16th of May in Haskovo and the region. The event was organized by EuroNatur – Germany, in partnership with Green Balkans and the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and is part of a large-scale international project – BESTbelt, implemented with the financial support of the European Union.

More than 30 participants from 9 countries of the Balkan Peninsula participated in the Conference, representatives of environmental NGOs and state institutions, including Haskovo municipality and Topolovgrad municipality.

The hosts of the event presented four environmental conservation projects performed in the region of Sakar, in the vicinity of the villages of Oreshnik, Shtit and Levka – falling within the boundaries of the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000. In the spirit of local traditions, the municipality of Topolovgrad organized a welcoming for the participants in the city center. Special attention was paid to the nature conservation center of Green Balkans in the village of Levka, where the association recovered the nesting habitat of an extinct species of bird – the Lesser kestrel, 10 years ago.

In addition to the conference program the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre of Green Balkans presented to an international audience the methods of release of rare species of birds that have completed course a successful treatment and rehabilitation. The patients of the Center, Common buzzard and Little owl, flew free in the vicinity of Park Hotel Green Europe – Haskovo, where the event took place.

The participants in the conference stood together for the idea that more joint efforts are needed to protect nature in the border areas, as in almost all Balkan countries there are preserved biological diversity, unique landscapes, genuine lifestyle, culture and traditions.

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In the recent past, for about 40 years the “Iron Curtain” divided the East and West in Europe. The strictly guarded border zone has given nature a chance to develop with almost no human presence, as a result of which a unique ecological network is formed, with a length of over 12,500 km – from Barents Sea and the Russian-Norwegian border, along the coast of the Baltic Sea, Central Europe and the Balkans to the Black Sea. Thus, the until recent division of Europe contributes to the preservation and development of valuable natural habitats, falling within the territory of 24 different countries. In the 1970s, the scientists noticed that the border zones serve as a refuge for many endangered species, preserving intact and flourishing nature.

With the opening of the borders, thousands of kilometers of inaccessible areas, providing a valuable refuge for many endangered animal and plant species, become a “lifeline”, connecting valuable natural habitats and providing opportunities for the development of local communities. In recognition of the uniqueness of these territories as a symbol of connectivity and unity, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the German Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and German non-governmental organizations launched the European Green Belt initiative as the largest environmental project in the world.

In the border territories of Bulgaria with neighboring countries Greece, Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Türkiye emblematic examples of natural territories are preserved, falling within the scope of the Green Belt. It was not by chance that the place of the Conference was chosen to be on the territory of Haskovo region. Here are some of the most representative areas characteristic of the Green Belt. In the region of the Eastern Rhodopes, Sakar, Maritsa and Tundzha rivers, unique nature, way of life and culture have been preserved, which have remained little known due to the restrictions resulting from the "Iron Curtain". This is confirmed also by the location of some of the largest territories from the European ecological network NATURA 2000, which fall in these areas.