MEET a Partner in a New European Bicycle Route Traversing Bulgaria
The Ministry of Economics, Energy, and Tourism is now a partner in the newest European Union project, EuroVelo 13, “The Iron Curtain Trail,” and will assume joint responsibility for the Balkan route’s southeastern section (StrategIC). The project will cost 100,000 Euro, and will be completed with the financial assistance and general direction of the “Enterprise and Industry” section of the European Commission. The grant is part of the initiative ENT/TOU/10/611, which seeks to promote bicycle tourism in the European Union as a way to encourage the growth of tourism in general.
Ivo Marinov, Vice-Minister for Economics, Energy, and Tourism, attended the presentation of the project’s final phase results. The ministry supports EuroVelo 13 as a way to integrate bicycle tourism with more general strategies for promoting tourism in the country. The project will be included within the national strategy for encouraging the development of tourism for the period 2014-2020. As a beneficiary of the general plan for regional development initiated in 2012, the Ministry will prepare four distinct strategic approaches, and bicycle tourism will be included among them, either as an independent project or as an integral part of eco-tourism. At the beginning of next year, the Ministry will sponsor the creation of an interdepartmental group to work on the project, with the support of non-governmental organizations and other experts in the field.
EuroVelo 13 will both encourage European bicycle tourism and inform cyclists of historical developments during the Cold War era, while highlighting local cultural and natural landmarks to stimulate tourism in the country’s border regions. Other partners in the project are also considering the feasibility of establishing bicycle routes along their borders with Bulgaria. The planned expansion of bicycle tourism in these areas is in keeping with the European federation’s proposed bicycle network. Routes will all be clearly marked and measures will be taken to assure the safety of the bicycle tourists.
The routes will also provide permanent access to the Green Belt – the largest network of nature reserves in Europe, comprised of national parks, preserves, protected biospheres, and other trans-border protected areas. Other partners that support the plan include the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism, the EcoObshtnost (Eco-Commonwealth) Foundation, the Bulgarian Foundation for Biodiversity, the Rumanian Bicycle association “Bike Attack,” and the Greek municipality of Tasos.
The starting point of “The Iron Curtain Trail” is the Barents Sea on the Russian-Finnish border. The entire trail is roughly 7,000 kilometers long and crosses twenty European countries before it reaches the Black Sea. The last part of the route, which is 1,700 kilometers long, begins at the border between Serbia and Rumania, then passes through the border zones of Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, ending at the Black Sea. The southeastern part of the route covers 2,000 kilometers and is divided into 44 sections. The European bicycle network is made up of fourteen routes that cover 45,000 kilometers, and is scheduled to expand to 70,000 kilometers by 2020. The income generated by the network so far amounts to 54 billion Euro, gained from some 2.8 billion bicycle excursions.