The Hungarian Nature Park Network, which includes seven regions, will be expanded with the inclusion of two new areas this year, President of the Hungarian Nature Park Association Béla Básthy announced at a press conference in Budapest today.

The Minister responsible for Environmental Protection is expected to award the title to the Kőrösök Völgye Nature Park in Békés County and to the Koppányvölgy Nature Park, which incorporates the outer Somogy area. Nature park initiatives designed to preserve the natural, cultural, architectural and historical treasures of the Buda Hills and the Zsámbék Basin are also underway.

Nature Parks, which came into existence in the nineties, protect natural and cultural treasures "while using them", and view conservation and rural development as synergistic tasks, the Association's president said.

According to Mr. Básthy, to gain the state-recognised title of Nature Park, the given area must apply to the Ministry of Rural Development. The first Nature Park in Hungary was the cross-border Írottkő Nature Park, which was the result of a joint Hungarian-Austrian initiative and which lies partly in Hungary and partly in Austria.

Today, there are seven Natural Parks in the country: the Vértes, Írottkő, Sokoró-Pannontáj, Cserhát, Szatmár.-Bereg, Gerecse and Hét Patak Gyöngye Nature Parks.

The professional concept that provides the regulatory framework for the Nature Parks was developed jointly with the Ministry of Rural Development last yeas, and Minister Sándor Fazekas signed the document in January 2014, Mr. Básthy pointed out. The nature parks are made up of many small settlements, making tourist traffic impossible to measure statistically, he added.

At the event, head professional consultant of the National Rural Development, Training and Advisory Institute's Hungarian Village and Green Tourism Programme Office Krisztina Budai said that the goal was to support the relationship between rural development and rural tourism from the planning stage right through to realisation. The Office is playing a role in several projects designed to expand the services offered by rural tourism, and Ms. Budai highlighted as an example the Eurovelo13 Iron Curtain Cycling Path Programme, which is being realised with international cooperation, the route of which is currently being designated. The end result will be a tourist route along the former iron Curtain, which is expected to attract many tourists, and especially cyclists.

According to Ms. Budai, ecotourism means environmentally aware touristic planning, which in addition to the Nature Park network also includes the Green Paths network that has been developed since 2005 involving regional-settlement cooperation. There are currently 4-5 "Green Paths" in Hungary through which tourists can become familiar local treasures.