Brussels, 24 July 2009
European Union helps fight forest fires in Italy and France
As forest fires rage across much of southern Europe, Italy and France have requested assistance through the European Civil Protection Mechanism to fight fires in Corsica and Sardinia. The European reserve of fire fighting aircraft has been used in Corsica and is currently in use in Sardinia to help national forces tackle the fires.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The European reserve of forest fire fighting aircraft, which we established with the support of the European Parliament, is a great example of European added value in responding to natural disasters like forest fires. It is important to make sure we have the right tools at our disposal to react to any type of emergency situation. Solidarity among Member States remains at the heart of our cooperation in disasters."
Forest fires are raging in many areas of Southern Europe. Spain, Italy, France and Greece are all affected. At least seven lives have been lost and thousands of hectares have been burnt. The hot and dry weather conditions combined with high winds are hampering efforts to control the fires in Italy, Spain, Greece and France.
In response to the requests for assistance from France and Italy, the European reserve of fire-fighting planes, consisting of two planes, has been used in Corsica and Sardinia to reinforce national means stretched by the ferocity of the fires. Established only this summer as a pilot project, the reserve capacity is designed to strengthen Europe's response to major forest fires.
European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve
In 2008, the European Parliament earmarked € 3.5 million for a pilot project to step up cooperation between Member States on combating forest fires. As a result of the pilot project, two Canadair CL‑215 fire-fighting aircraft - the European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve – are available this summer (from 1 July – 30 September) to assist Member States facing major forest fires, if and when other Member States are unable to provide the required assistance. The pilot project is run by France and the two planes are stationed in Corsica. The pilot project is a test for new arrangements in European civil protection.
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 when a major emergency situation arises.
Mechanism activities are coordinated by the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which is run by the European Commission and located in DG Environment, Civil Protection Unit.
30 states 2 participate in the Community Mechanism. Through the Mechanism, participating states make available their civil protection resources to disaster-stricken countries all over the world in a coordinated way.
Since its creation, the Mechanism has been activated for a number of disasters both within and outside the EU, including the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia, Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005 and the devastating forest fires in Greece and other European countries in 2007.
For more information:
Council Decision of 8 November 2007 (2007/779/EC, Euratom)
EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway