The SEE Programme contributes to the Iron Curtain trail

On March 16th 2010, in Sofia, the SEE JTS participated in the concluding of an Awareness-Raising Workshop on the Iron Curtain cycling trail, organised by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry. The contribution of the SEE JTS to the workshop was meant to illustrate the aims of the SEE Programme, the possible opportunities for funding (from both ERDF and IPA funds) of strategic projects with strong transnational character and visible impact, and to make clear the SEE Programme's criteria for the eligibility of partners and activities.

The Iron Curtain has divided Europe into East and West, from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea for almost half a century. After the fall of the Wall and the opening of the borders, however, in the former "dead strip", that due to isolation has become a unique environmental habitat and since 2002 reunited under the "European Green Belt" initiative, several cycling tourism projects were developed at a regional small scale level. 

Today, the objective - after the proposal of the representative of the European Green Party , Michael Cramer - is to set up a 6,800 Km seamless cycle trail that allows a sustainable tourist experience of the 20th century history of a reunited Europe, and is proposed to become the 13th long-distance route among the already existing EuroVelo network (with the support of the European Cyclists' Federation). This could increase substantially cycling tourism and consequently bring benefits and substantial regional economic impacts. The participation to the workshop of representatives of the relevant Ministries for Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Poland and the European Commission shows the interest of the involved countries towards the initiative.
 
The southern part of the Iron Curtain trail crosses the eligible area of the SEE Programme, from Austria to Bulgaria and could boost transnational cooperation projects among the involved 10 countries. These projects could be supported in the framework of several Areas of Intervention of the SEE Operational Programme (OP). During the presentation of the SEE JTS emphasis has been put not only on possible proposals connected with regional development, in line with Area of Intervention (AoI) 4.3, "Promote the use of cultural values for development", but also on the issue of accessibility of rural and marginal areas: the cycling trail could be a part of a regional sustainable mobility strategy, planned for tourists (e.g. access to/from the sites using public transportation, ad hoc solutions and ICT tools, multimodal facilities for passengers) of which at the same time the local population could benefit, thus meeting the aims of Priority 3 of the SEE Operational Programme.

Last, but not least, based on the focus of AoI 2.3 "Promote cooperation in management of natural assets and protected areas", actions related to the Iron Curtain Trail could potentially be integrated as side activities - considering also the European Green Belt initiative.

More information on the workshop and the Iron Curtain trail can be found on the following websites:
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/tourism/iron-curtain-trail; http://www.ironcurtaintrail.eu.
Project ideas in connection with the Iron Curtain Trail can be discussed by contacting Roberta Calcina, from the SEE Programme Joint Technical Secretariat, at the following e-mail address: calcina@southeast-europe.net.

Has contributed to the SEE News: Roberta Calcina(SEE JTS)