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Brussels, 19 July 2007

EU helps Greece to tackle forest fires

On 18 July 2007 at 18.11hrs (Brussels time) Greece requested European civil protection assistance to help combat the forest fires raging throughout the country. The request triggered a rapid response from the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) of the European Commission. The MIC immediately alerted the civil protection authorities of the 30 countries participating in the Community Civil Protection Mechanism. The MIC's intervention resulted in 2 French Canadair aircraft being made available to help Greece tackle the fires.

Greece has turned to the European Union in its request for help following the severe forest fires that have been ravaging the country over the past days. Greece requested in particular aerial means. The MIC received the Greek request on 18 July 2007 at 18:11 hours (Brussels time) and immediately activated its network of civil protection authorities. Consultations with other Member States resulted in the morning of 19 July in an offer of assistance from France, which is ready to make 2 Canadair aircraft available through the European Communtiy civil Protection Mechanism.

This was the third Greek request for assistance to deal with this year's particularly extensive forest fires. On 27 June 2007 the European Community Civil Protection Mechanism (MIC) had received a first request from Greece for 4 Canadairs (fire-fighting water-carrying aircrafts) and 3 heavy-duty helicopters. That request triggered a response from Italy, France, Portugal and Spain. These countries made a total of seven fire-fighting aircraft available. On 5 July 2007, Greece activated the Mechanism a second time to fight particularly severe fires in certain regions in Parnitha Mountain and Pilion Mountain. The MIC's intervention resulted in two Italian aircraft being made available to help bring the fires under control. The following day the strong winds fuelling the fires dropped and firefighters were able to prevent the fires from spreading. Therefore the Greek authorities considered that no further assistance was needed and the request was withdrawn.

Several other Member States are facing similar fires across their territory. The Community Mechanism was activated twice by Cyprus over the last few weeks to help fight fires in the Troodos mountains. Both Italy and Greece offered fire fighting aircraft to Cyprus, which were in the end not needed because of changing weather conditions.

The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection

The Community Mechanism[1] aims to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions. It ensures the coordination of assistance intervention in order to provide prompt support and to assist a country (inside and outside the European Union) in need of help. The main objective is to provide the best possible response and preparedness when a major emergency situation arises.

Such activities are coordinated by the Commission through the activation of its Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), located in DG Environment, Civil Protection Unit.

30 states[2] participate in the Community Mechanism. These pool those resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world through this mechanism.

Since its creation, the Mechanism has been activated for a number of disasters worldwide, including the 2003 earthquake in Iran; the 2004 tsunami affected South East Asia; the 2005 forest fires in Portugal, flooding in Bulgaria and Romania, Hurricane Katrina in the US and the earthquake in Pakistan and more recently the earthquake in Indonesia and the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. The Commission has reviewed the efficiency of the Mechanism and through its proposals is seeking to improve upon it.

[1] Council Decision of 23 October (2001/792/EC, Euratom) (OJ L297, 15.11.2001, p.7)

[2] EU 25, Bulgaria, Romania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway

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