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Cooperation with international organisations: nature conservation from Norway to the Balkans
Integrated expert
Alois Lang
E-Mail: Alois.Lang@iucn.org
The World Conservation Union (IUCN), Regional Office for Europe


From Iron Curtain to Green Belt

On a field trip through a nature preserve in the Save meadowland, Serbia. Photo: Integrated Expert Alois Lang.
The context A stronger awareness of the environment has developed recently in many of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time, pressure is building on the untouched areas near these countries’ borders.
Objective Cross-boundary cooperation on nature conservation and sustainable regional development are to prime the regional economy and meet international nature conservation obligations at the same time.
CIM assignment On both international and regional levels, an Austrian eco-tourism expert is coordinating the cooperation of all of the partners involved in the European Green Belt initiative.
Financing CIM and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) are sharing the costs of the CIM expert assignment.
Along the 6,800-kilometre corridor from the North Sea to the Adriatic, precious biotopes adjoin one another –  fields of tall-grass, bushes, forests, marshes and pastureland. Where once the Iron Curtain formed the boundary between Eastern and Western Europe, rare species of animals and plants have found a habitat that is still intact. The goal of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is to see that this Green Belt one day becomes the longest and largest connected biotope system in the world. Austrian expert Alois Lang adds, “We want to use this initiative to prove to the individual countries that cross-boundary cooperation for nature conservation can also create economic opportunity.” His own motto is: “Borders separate, nature unites.” The eco-tourism expert coordinates the activities of the European Green Belt initiative on behalf of IUCN from Norway to the Balkans – sometimes from his field office in the Hungarian national park Fertö-Hanság, sometimes from the IUCN office in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Developing concepts and implementing them with local partners, doing some hands-on work himself with cross-boundary projects, networking with politicians – these are the main tasks of the 49-year-old expert. For this he resigned from his job as head of PR at the Austrian national park Neusiedler See – with no regrets. “Perhaps one day we will be able to show Europe that nature conservation in the new EU countries and the neighbouring states to the east, with their vast reserves, has major potential – especially for the people in the disadvantaged border areas.”