Between March 27-30, 2023, the meeting of the European Geoparks Network (EGN), held in the city of Haţeg, brought together representatives of UNESCO-recognized geopark territories from 28 countries.
It was the first time that Romania hosted a UNESCO event of such scope in the first UNESCO International Geopark in our country and in Eastern Europe – the Țara Hațegului Geopark.
Thus, in Hațeg, the meetings of the management forums of the European geoparks took place: the Consultative Committee and the Coordination Committee. Participants at the meeting hosted by the Țara Hațegului Geopark voted for next spring’s EGN event to be hosted by the Kula-Salihli Geopark in Turkey. And next year, following the votes of the participants, the European Geoparks Network conference, which takes place once every two years, will take place in the Reykjanes Geopark in Iceland. The event was also of major importance for the steps taken towards a common operation strategy and defining the financial governance of EGN. The last part of the event was dedicated to field visits. Participants in the meeting had a choice between three routes. One of these led them on the trail of paleontologist Franz Nopcsa and the dwarf dinosaurs. The second route was dedicated to the discovery of the heritage left in the Hațeg Country by volcanoes, in the Densuș commune, and by the Romans, at Sarmizegetusa Ulpia Traiana. The third route introduced foreign guests to Huniazi Castle and Deva Citadel, in order to promote the values of the entire county.
“Hațeg is now the capital of 94 European geoparks, and the values and heritage of this territory have become known in the Network, throughout Europe and throughout the world. We hope that this will also contribute to development, because this geopark, and all other geoparks, are hidden treasures, and the discovery of this treasure makes European citizens aware of the importance of these places. We expect a flow of people interested in visiting them and learning, on the spot, about this unique heritage”, said prof. Nickolas Zouros, PhD, President of the Global Geoparks Network.
What highlights the Țara Hațegului Geopark within the EGN is the management provided by the University of Bucharest. Moreover, it is the only European geopark that creates a bridge between the academic milieu and the local community.
“The university invests money, time and energy in the Geopark, far from Bucharest, on the one hand because one of our missions is to develop communities, to give something back to society and local communities. On the other hand, because we believe that education must be done not only in amphitheaters and libraries, but also in the field, where things happen. That is why the University of Bucharest has supported and will continue to support projects of this kind. Together with our colleagues, we are also involved in the second UNESCO geopark in Romania, in Buzău County, and we will also support the applications for the other geoparks”, stated prof. Marian Preda, PhD, rector of the University of Bucharest.
“Being a team of the University of Bucharest, we were able to prove that the University is a partner of the local community. Everyone got involved in organizing this event and everyone supported us, from the County Council, to the mayors, to local partners, to volunteers, to people from the local community. In fact, the Geopark means partnership and now we had the opportunity to prove to our colleagues from the Network that we have this capacity, that Țara Hațegului is a real geopark, a geopark of the people. In fact, the geopark is a kind of university in the open air”, said lect. Alexandru Andrășanu, director of the UNESCO International Geopark Țara Hațegului.
“Only in such places, with the awareness that you are doing something useful to the community, coming from the side that has gained more knowledge, can we really achieve what we want, a growth of this wonderful region that has all the conditions to be at the top. In the case of geoparks, the hierarchy does not matter, but it is extremely important that they take advantage of their potential”, said prof. Dan Grigorescu, PhD, the first director of the UNESCO International Geopark Ţara Hațegului.
Regarding this link that the geopark makes between the local community and the academic milieu, an element of novelty in these meetings of the EGN members was the organization of an open session. The participants of the event had the opportunity to meet partners of the Geopark, from the local level to the university level, to learn from them details about the projects carried out in Țara Hațegului and to identify new ways of collaboration through joint international projects.
“Interaction with local communities and academia, with universities, is a distinctive feature of the UNESCO International Geopark concept. I think that the Țara Hațegului geopark is an exceptional example in this regard. We see a very close cooperation with the community where we are guests, where people make efforts to support the Geopark, and the University of Bucharest. It is a truly unique relationship and we hope it will be a source of inspiration for other geoparks as well”, said Kristof Vandenberghe, Head of the Earth Sciences and Geo-hazards Risk Reduction Section and Secretary of the Geosciences and Geoparks Program at UNESCO.
The participants at the 47th EGN meeting were very excited to discover the Țara Hațegului Geopark and a part of Romania. They also appreciated the joint organizing effort of the team, the volunteers of the Geopark and the partners of the geopark.
“I wish to express my deepest thanks and I assume of all EGN members of the Coordinating Committee who had the privilege of visiting your geopark and experiencing the hospitality, warmth and friendliness of the local people. Such meetings add value to EGN and help us to progress in a voluntary and synergistic spirit for a better future for our communities and at the level of cooperation in the Network. The willingness of all participants to overcome any obstacles and be present in this wonderful geopark, to discuss, meet face to face and design our common future is the strongest indicator that the dark times of COVID will be past, finding ourselves stronger than before”, is the message sent by Charalampos Fassoulas, PhD, vice-coordinator of EGN, after the meeting in Hațeg.
The European Network of Geoparks, 23 years of existence
The European Network of Geoparks was created in 2000 and currently brings together 94 territories from 28 countries on our continent. The geopark concept enjoyed worldwide success, so in 2004 the International Geoparks Network (Global Geoparks Network – GGN) was established, which, on November 17, 2015, obtained UNESCO recognition through the Geosciences and Geoparks Program. Worldwide, there are 177 geoparks, from 46 countries around the world, members of the GGN. The number of UNESCO geoparks increases every year, as new territories are assessed and accepted as members of this important international body.
The meeting of the European Network of Geoparks was organized by the University of Bucharest together with the Hunedoara County Council, the Hațeg City Hall and the Hațeg County Intermunicipal Association, with the support of the National Commission of Romania for UNESCO. Partners in the good organization and running of the event were the Ecotourism Destination Țara Hațegului – Retezat, SC Adaconi srl Haţeg, Banca Transilvania, DIGI, the Corvinilor Castle in Hunedoara, the Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization Deva, Dinosaurs World Transylvalia, the Women’s Association of Santamaria – Orlea, the Association Drag de Hațeg, “I.C. Brătianu” High School Hațeg, Local Gastronomic Point LuciAna Densuș, Hațegan Densuș Village Museum, Ritmuri Haţegane Folk Ensemble. Media partners: Radio Romania International, Radio Romania Cultural, Agerpres, Antena 3 Deva, Hunedoara 1 TV, Replica – Info HD TV, BIG FM, Accent Media, Hunedoara Liberă, Cronica Văii Jiului and Exclusiv Newspaper.