SaveGREEN - Kick-Off Event: Paving the Road towards Eco-Connectivity


Balance, how nature works, how it endures, and how it prevails. Pollinators, plants, herbivores, carnivores: all are interconnected, need each other, keep each other in check. Rupture of that natural balance is not great news. Ecological corridors, for instance, are a part of that balance. Eco-corridors represent functional zones of passage for distinct groups of species that are dependent on a single environment. Now, interrupt an eco-corridor with a motorway that has no considerations on the negative effects for, say, a Grey wolf making use of it — need it. On the other side of the road, its prey will reproduce without control, vegetation will suffer; balance is broken.

In the Danube basin, eco-corridors allow for the flow of large carnivores, such as Brown bears, Eurasian lynx, and Grey wolves. But, in recent years, infrastructure development has entered into conflict with eco-corridors, thus affecting nature conservation, as well as local inhabitants. Safeguarding the functionality of transnationally important ecological corridors is crucial. Thus, enter the SaveGREEN project. Funded by the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme (Interreg DTP), the SaveGREEN project will work for the next two and a half years to push forth integrated planning for infrastructure development in the Danube basin area. 

In line with work in times of COVID, SaveGREEN officially launched its operations last 8-9 September with an online kick-off event. Hosted by the consortium’s lead partner, WWF - Central and Eastern and Europe, and the communications leader, CEEweb for Biodiversity, the kick-off gathered 100 participants: project and associated partners, external stakeholders and experts, attendants represented the various fields of expertise required to carry out to safeguard the ecological corridors in the Danube-Carpathian region.

The road ahead
The Kick-off Event started on 8 September. Mr Andreas Beckmann, Regional Managing Director at WWF-Central and Eastern Europe, landed the theme to be discussed and was relayed by Ms Ana Kobašlić, Priority Area 6 Coordinator of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), who provided an overview of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy. Ms Kobašlić highlighted that one of SaveGREEN’s objectives, for example, the Recommendations towards the integration of mitigation measures into the national and EU level policy processes as a new policy instrument, could open new funding sources to achieve increased ecological connectivity.  

Mr Hans Bekker, from is Infrastructure and Ecology Network Europe (IENE), introduced the participants to the topic of the relatively young discipline of ‘transport ecology’, showing its importance through the successful example of increasing the badger population with disciplined and cooperative smart planning and implementation.

The new Strategy for Biodiversity for 2030 was introduced by Ms Iva Obretenova, representing the EU DirectorateGeneral Environment. Recently finalised in May, its focus on preservation and protection of nature responds to their ever-increasing importance considering that economic growth has been the main predator for far too long. This issue must be addressed to create a more sustainable society; the Biodiversity Strategy, as part of the EU Green Deal, will play a key role in this regard.

Ms Hildegard Meyer, SaveGREEN’s Lead Project Coordinator from WWF-CEE, introduced the SaveGREEN project, its objectives, details, and goals. All in all, SaveGREEN will work for improved structural and functional ecological connectivity in bottleneck areas. How exactly? By adapting land use and management in the surroundings involving stakeholders from different fields of experience in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Overall, the project will work in 7 pilot areas distributed across the Carpathians.

For the second day of the event, Mr Gusztav Csomor, representative of the Danube Transnational Programme, rang the bell for the SaveGREEN partnership to start its collaborative work throughout its working areas. The first thematic area will relate to the development of a standardised methodology for monitoring, a technical application toolbox, and a handbook of best practices for planning and implementation of mitigation measures. All these products will be made accessible for the relevant stakeholders through a capacity building program, thus settling the resources and capacities for the future implementation and reproduction of the project.

The second working area of SaveGREEN relates to the implementation of activities in the pilot areas. The main goal? To demonstrate how integrated planning can be implemented on the ground. For this to happen, synergies will be key. Transnational technical experience exchange workshops, local cross-sectoral Operational Plans for all pilot sites, the development of an online library of multi-sectoral best practices, the formation of local working groups, actions of the local cross-sectoral operational plans: all of them are meant to happen and will be carried out in:

  • Austria: Kobernausser forest and in Pöttsching in the Alpine-Carpathian Corridor,
  • Bulgaria: Rila-Verila-West Border Mountains,
  • Czech Republic and Slovakia:  Beskydy mountains,
  • Slovakia and Hungary: Novohrad - Nógrád,
  • Romania: Mures valley, and
  • Ukraine: Zakarpatska region.

Finally, the third working area of the project related to policy, capacity-building, and networking. Its aim? To pursue policy-advocacy and stakeholder involvement activities at different levels, from the national to the regional, through the EUSDR and the Carpathian Convention, and so on. These activities are to enable the project to help strengthen cooperation towards safeguarding the functionality of ecological corridors by improving Green Infrastructure through a cross-sectoral dialogue. Not only that, this working area will advocate for the adoption of adequate measures to ensure the funding of Green Infrastructure in Operational Programmes and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as well as for EU standards on the integration of ecological connectivity/Green Infrastructure.

SaveGREEN, which will act and build upon the results of previous projects on this field — namely, TRANSGREEN, HARMON, and ConnectGREEN — will capitalize from synergies with other projects in the region, showcase best examples, and ultimately aim for integrated planning approaches from decision-makers and spatial planners to safeguard eco-corridors.

Just in line with what nature’s balance requires.

Ms Hildegard Meyer, Lead Project Coordinator, 
Ms Eszter Sebestyén, Communications Coordinator, 

Documents for download:

Programme co-funded by European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI)