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Transnational Cooperation for Sustainable Nature Conservation – Selected Balkan States on their Way to Europe

The project „NatuRegio_Balkans“ started at the Alfred Toepfer Foundation F.V.S. in cooperation with the Alfred Toepfer Academy for Nature Conservation (NNA) in November 2013. It was funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) and the Heidehof Foundation.



Trainees

The Balkan conflict led to the breakup of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia into seven states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The region is characterized by breathtaking, natural landscapes that can not be found in Western Europe anymore: Virgin forests, natural rivers and floodplains as well as mountain regions which are hardly disturbed by humans. Stable habitats for many endangered plant and animal species can still be found here.

Social and economic impacts on these natural assets are increasing. Landscapes and regions that were under a single legislation are now managed by different states. Because nature does not stop at borders, a uniform legal basis and transnational cooperation are especially important.

The Balkan states developed independently after the breakup of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The accession of some countries to the European Union (Slovenia 2004, Croatia 2013) and the progress of other states in different accession status (Bosnia and Herzegovina is potential candidate country, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are candidate countries) contribute to different developments in terms of nature conservation in the Balkan states.

The project ‘NatuRegio_Balkans’ ran from November 2013 until July 2015 and was directed at the target countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

NatuRegio_Balkans trained 13 young professionals (“trainees”), already working in nature conservation or sustainable regional development in the target countries, through:

  • Six seminar weeks in Germany and Slovenia,
  • Monetary and advisory funding for own nature conservational projects,
  • Networking of trainees – amongst themselves and with various experts.

The final trainees were chosen out of 50 applicants during the application process (January – March 2014) with personal interviews in Zagreb and Belgrade. All target countries were represented by at least one committed young nature conservationist. After the cancellation of two trainees from Montengro the programme was completed with 13 trainees. The group of trainees was diverse, ranging from foresters, ornithologists, botanists, geographers, biologists, landscape planners, karstologists, to experts for large carnivores or dragonflies either working for GOs or NGOs.

The training programme started with four seminar weeks in Germany (May 2014). Travelling from Schleswig-Holstein (Wadden Sea National Park, Water Bird Reserve on the isle of Fehmarn), Luneburg Heath (Schneverdingen), Biosphere Reserve River Elbe, Harz National Park, Saxonian Switzerland National Park to the Danube floodplains in Bavaria. Various topics like a professional English language course, nature conservation in Germany, functioning of the EU and project management were discussed and the trainees received many insights into the practical work regarding nature conservation in Germany. Exchanging experiences between nature conservation practitioners in Germany and the trainees was an integral part during these intensive four seminar weeks.

Every trainee developed a proposal for an own nature conservation project during and after these seminar weeks. The detailed project proposals were the topic of a subsequent “Networks & Projects Seminar” held in Dom Trenta in the Julic Alps in July 2014. It was organized by the Triglav National Park (Slovenia) in close cooperation with the NNA.

The individual project ideas were discussed and elaborated together with regional experts including five ex-trainees of the former NatuRegio_floodplains-project. Different field trips gave insight into nature conservation practices in Slovenia. Especially interesting was the exchange of experiences with experts who were involved in Slovenia’s way to the EU in the field of nature conservation.

After the final approval of the trainee project proposals by the NNA project team, the six months implementation period started (August 2014 – February 2015). The projects were implemented in their respective reference countries and the trainees wrote reports to the NNA support team to document their results. They received up to 3.000€ project funding through the project NatuRegio_Balkans. The, partially very ambitious, projects ranged from installing an ‘information-app’ for a nature reserve, to mapping of ‘neglected’ caves, as well as efforts for using reed as a renewable energy source, to writing and publishing of a botanical text book, to different approaches for environmental education and to classical species conservation measures for a Common Tern colony. All 13 projects were successfully implemented and have pilot character for the whole region. A detailed list of all trainee projects can be found here ‘ List of trainee projects’.

The training programme ended with a final seminar week in Germany at the end of February 2015. The so called “Future Workshop” resumed the implemented trainee projects and the NatuRegio_Balkans experience for the trainees. It also focused on developing future ideas for networking and project work within the NatuRegio-network and with external experts. All trainees received a certificate in a festive Award Ceremony with participation of representatives of the Alfred Toepfer Foundation F.V.S., the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) and the NNA.

Please find more information about NatuRegio_Balkans in our ‘ project description’.


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