The 'Iron Curtain Trail' (ICT) experiencing the history of Europe's division: Development of the 'Reunification of Europe Cultural Route' for growth and jobs.
For almost half a century Europe was divided into East and West by the "Iron Curtain", a border stretching from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. The Iron Curtain Trail (ICT) invites people to retrace and experience the former division of the continent on a 6,800 km cycle track (EuroVelo 13) along the length of the former border, combining European culture, history and sustainable culturatourism.
The ICT thereby contributes in a lively and very practical way to the creation of a genuine European identity. In 2005, following the initiative of Green member Michael Cramer, the European Parliament recognised the "Iron Curtain Trail" as a model project for sustainable tourism and called upon the Member States for support.
In Cult-RInG project the aim wa to upgrade ICT to a European Cultural Route (ECR), including Council of Europe (CoE) certification.
Cultural Routes (CRs) of the CoE have been established since 1987, as powerful tools to promote and preserve EU’s shared and diverse cultural heritage. CRs provide a better understanding of the history of Europe through interregional exchanges of people, ideas and cultures.
The ICT EV13 as the 'Reunification of Europe Cultural Route' has a great potential for growth & jobs.
The application for certification was submitted by the European Cyclists Federation with support from Cult-RInG partner VTA LV in 2018. The ICT CR was certifified by the CoE in April 2019, with the participation of Cult-RInG lead partner RCM EL.
Infrastructure costs vary according to the terrain and condition of the cycle track. However, most of the ICT cycling route exists and the costs for transforming it to a cultural route are relatively low, basically for signing and information provision. Human resources are mainly by volunteers.
Evidence of success
The European Parliament has called on EU member states to support a proposal to promote the 6,800 km route of the former Iron Curtain as a "tourist trail that would preserve the memory of the division of the continent, show how it has been overcome through peaceful European reunification, and promote a European identity."
The ICT CR has been upgraded to a CR of CoE as a direct result of interregional cooperation between VTA LV and Region of Central Macedonia (RCM) EL in the Cult-RInG project.
The challenge wa to turn ICT into a CR, with upgrading of its image. The ICT runs through natural heritage sites and is surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in addition to its military history. Upgrading ICT into a ECR needed cultural activities, festivals, signposting, branding and marketing.
Potential for learning or transfer
The former "death strip" between East and West Germany has become a unique biotope thanks to its decade-long isolation during the Cold War. Today, this unique natural memorial of Europe's decision is protected and named the "Green Belt". It has also become a part of the Iron Curtain Trail.
Jointly with the German Association for the Environment and Protection of Nature (BUND), Klaus Buchin was one of the first to discover the valuable natural treasures along the former border trace and able to get them protected. They achieved that the “Green Belt” was discovered as a biotope, secured by the Federal states. As unanimously accepted by the Bundestag in 2004.
The significance of the “Green Belt” for the protection of the natural environment and its value as a symbol of unification between East and West is now recognized internationally.
The "Green Belt" could be extended to other parts of the ICT, in combination with the European Cultural Route, as a transfer of successful practices.
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