Brussels, 25 August 2007
The European Commission expresses its shock and sadness at the number of victims in the fires that are devastating the southern regions of Greece. Following a Greek request for help, the Commission through its Community Mechanism for Civil Protection, yesterday held urgent contacts with the 30 countries that participate in the mechanism to provide the assistance to combat the fires. France is sending two aircraft today. Norway offered an aircraft, while Germany is offering 3 helicopters. The Greek authorities have said that up to 37 people have died in the fires.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Stavros Dimas, Member of the European Commission responsible for the Environment and Civil Protection, associate themselves for, in name of the Commission, express their profound sadness and convey their condolences to the families concerned.
"I am saddened by the tragic loss of human lives that these forest fires have brought with them and hope that the European partners will live up to expectations and provide all the material support Greece needs in this moment of distress," said Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
"I am distressed that Europe's Southern shores are once again experiencing climatic conditions that favour the spread of these fires. I am convinced that we need to strengthen our forest fire-fighting capacity to combat these fires together." Commissioner Dimas also said.
Greece yesterday asked the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which facilitates the provision of civil protection assistance worldwide, to request that European partners provide water-bombing aircraft to Greece.
Even though all southern countries are dealing with their own domestic fires, France is deploying two aircraft as of today. Norway offered an aircraft, while Germany is offering 3 helicopters.
Many countries to the south and south-east of Europe have requested assistance this summer both inside and outside the EU. There is also an ongoing request for assistance from Albania. The Commission is waiting for Member States to offer assistance.
The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection
The Community Mechanism 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.
30 states 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 in 2005, the Lebanon crisis in 2006. This year the Mechanism was activated for floods in Bolivia, forest fires in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania.