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Brussels, 28 June 2007

European Union responds swiftly to combat forest fires in Greece

Within minutes of receiving an assistance request from Greece for help in fighting forest fires the European Commission activated its civil protection network. Within two hours of the request Italy, France and Portugal had offered a total of 5 Canadair fire-fighting aircraft.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The assistance offered by these Member States is a most powerful demonstration of European cooperation and solidarity in times of need."

Early in the evening of 27 June 2007, Greece requested civil protection assistance from its European partners. The request triggered a rapid reaction from the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC). The MIC immediately alerted the civil protection authorities of the 30 countries participating in the Community Civil Protection Mechanism.

Fires affect all parts of Greece

Some 120 forest and wildfires are raging throughout Greece with the most affected regions of Thessaly, Sterea Ellada, Attica, the Peloponnese, and the West. These fires are the result of extremely hot and dry weather conditions and strong winds. On Wednesday 27 June 2007 at 18.00 the European Community Civil Protection Mechanism (MIC) received a request from Greece for fire-fighting water-carrying aircraft and helicopters. Within minutes the MIC forwarded the call for assistance to its network of civil protection authorities in the 27 Member States and the three other countries participating in the Mechanism (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). This is the first such request by Greece.

Within a few hours of the request several countries had already offered Greece assistance:

  • Italy: 2 Canadair CL 415 aircraft. The Italian aircraft are on their way. Two technicians of the Italian Civil Protection Department were sent to Greece on the night of the request to coordinate on-the-ground needs with local authorities.
  • France: 2 Canadair CL 415 water bomber aircraft. Departure was scheduled for this morning.
  • Portugal: The upcoming holder of the EU Presidency offered one Canadair CL-215 aircraft. The plane will be ready for departure as of 29 June and estimated to arrive in Greece by that same evening

Greece has accepted all offers of assistance. The EU’s intervention in Greece builds on experience gained from a broad range of previous disasters, including forest fires in France, Spain and Portugal.

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.

Some 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 in 2005, the Lebanon crisis in 2006 and more recently in Bolivia's floods.

For more information visit:

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

[2] EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway

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