In 2014, the REC completed the three-year GreenNet project, which aimed to secure long-term protection for the largest transnational network of ecosystems in Europe: the European Green Belt along the former Iron Curtain. The project also pursued strategies for sustainable rural development in regions adjacent to the Green Belt. Together with partners from Central Europe, the REC developed a common transnational methodology to define goals and landscape quality objectives for six pilot regions in five countries. The project identified spatial gaps in protected and non-protected areas and promoted strategies to preserve the Green Belt as a whole.

A key early step was to identify spatial conflicts and harmonise the land claims of different stakeholders. It was particularly important to deal with the gaps in the Green Belt by addressing the problem of non-protected areas with a high ecological value. These areas are vital stepping stones for rare and endangered species in the ecological network of the Green Belt. To address conflicting land-use claims, the project developed a GreenNet GIS web tool, which provides economic, spatial and ecological data. The project’s researchers identified regional stakeholders and their key interests in order to highlight potential conflicts, and the GIS tool precisely pinpointed the areas with conflicts. The tool can be used by people working in a wide variety of fields, including agriculture, forestry, decision making, spatial planning, water management and nature conservation, to provide an overview of potential spatial conflicts, making it possible to close gaps in the Green Belt.

After identifying areas of land in need of protection, the project sought to develop regional and transnational protection strategies. The transnational European Green Belt encompasses many habitats and species that cross national borders. Examples include the wetlands and dragonflies along the Mura River and Goricko between Slovenia and Austria; and the large carnivores in Cesky les/Oberpfalzer Wald between the Czech Republic and Germany. Developing conservation strategies in these locations required intensive transboundary cooperation. The project brought together cross-border stakeholders — including municipalities, farmers, landowners, spatial planners, water management authorities and nature conservationists — to develop and implement joint management strategies.

The GreenNet project also sought to raise awareness and encouraged lobbying activities to promote the importance of barrier-free ecological corridors in the Green Belt. This work included advocating for policy changes at regional, national and international level. The European Commission’s Green Infrastructure Strategy refers to efforts to preserve the Green Belt as an example of good practice. Developing an appropriate strategy in these border areas can provide the backbone for a pan-European ecological network and European network of green infrastructure.


REC Bulgaria has launched the project Building Capacity and New Models for Stakeholder Participation in Natura 2000 Management, funded by Swiss Cooperation[r1] . The project aims to provide tools to improve stakeholders’ involvement in the management of Natura 2000 protected areas so as to avoid conflicts between social and economic interests and conservation objectives. The project is being implemented in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and is contributing to the process of establishing management arrangements for Natura 2000 sites at national and local level.

Activities include the analysis of best practices from other EU countries; the establishment of a national working group; the proposal of a model for public participation in the management of protected areas, which will be tested at three pilot sites; as well as training and public awareness raising.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The REC’s Macedonian office is implementing the two-year project Developing Capacity for the Sustainability of Lake Dojran, which aims to ensure the long-term protection of the lake’s endangered ecosystems. The project is being carried out within the grant programme of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). The CEPF as a joint initiative of the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. Its primary goal is to ensure the participation of civil society in biodiversity protection. Lake Dojran has been declared a national monument with significant biodiversity. It is one of a group of endangered ecosystems in South Eastern Europe and is part of the Natura 2000 network. 

Activities being implemented to secure long-term protection include:

  • an empirical analysis of baseline information on ecological elements, land-use patterns, and social, demographic and economic trends in Lake Dojran area;
  • the identification of stakeholders;
  • expert consultations;
  • the introduction of teaching on sustainable water use in the seven schools in the municipality of Dojran by encouraging teachers to make use of the Green Pack and Green Pack Junior practical tools for education for sustainable development; and 
  • three research camps per year for biology students to assess the current hydrological status of the lake. 

Awareness-raising activities have helped to make the natural values of the lake’s ecosystem more widely known among the general public. Open classes have been organised for young children and creative workshops have also been held.

The project will also provide opportunities for representatives of the local self-government and community stakeholders to meet, discuss and work together to improve their understanding of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and build their capacities for the drafting of a management plan for Lake Dojran.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The project Promoting Trebizat as an Ecotourism Destination aimed to develop sustainable tourism through the promotion of local products, traditional activities, natural values and cultural heritage. Activities in 2014 included:

  • the creation of an Ecotourism Development Strategic Plan for the Trebizat area for the period 2014 to 2018;
  • a study tour in April to the Krka National Park in Croatia for 25 local stakeholders in order to exchange experiences and best practices related to the management of protected areas, ecotourism promotion and public relations, and cooperation with the local population;
  • the publication in June of an ecotourism brochurecontaining information about natural values, cultural heritage and tourist offers in the municipalities of Ljubuski and Capljina nad Grude;
  • the designation of five ecotourism sites and the setting up of five info boards in Mogorjelo, Matica, Trebizat–Kameni most, Bozjak and Ceveljusa; and
  • the drafting of a report on the finalconference “Ecotourism Possibilities and Challenges in the Area of Trebizat”, which was held in June attracting 40 participants.

The project has contributed to a change in the attitudes and behaviour of local stakeholders regarding sustainable development and the use of natural resources. It has encouraged them to participate in sustainable development initiatives and activities, which should lead to an improvement in the current situation and increase the number of visitors to the Trebizat area. In terms of the protection, use and management of the area along the Trebizat river, the relevant municipalities are interested in protecting certain attractive zones, such as Pec Mlini and the Kosuca waterfall. The public institutions Turist (Capljina), Parkovi (Ljubuski) and Vrilo (Grude) are responsible for the management of natural and cultural-historical values and will continue to manage protected areas and develop the Trebizat river as a unique tourist destination.


With the launch of the Kampinos Wetlands project, REC Poland established the project consortium, purchased wetlands, and established a nature monitoring system to collect data for the hydrological planning. The project is being implemented in the second largest national park in Poland, located close to Warsaw. The main objective is to restore and maintain the many rare wetland habitats of the Kampinos area and the associated plant and animal species. The digging of drainage canals had led to the gradual drying out of the wetlands, and efforts to overcome this threat to the area’s wildlife had been obstructed by the complicated ownership structure, complex legal issues, a lack of precise hydrological and wildlife data, and limited funds. The purchase of an area of private land by the national park made it possible to plan hydro-engineering solutions, leading to an increase in moisture content over a large area. Between 2006 and 2010, detailed scientific research, including an inventory of biodiversity and an assessment of socioeconomic conditions, had been carried out, leading to proposals for improving hydrological conditions. Current activities are based on this research, following consultations with local communities. Communication campaigns, aimed at increasing public acceptance of the project and improving relations between nature conservation services and local residents, are a crucial component of the project.

REC Poland has also been involved in several monitoring projects related to invasive species, butterflies and plants.


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