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European Commission - Press release

Co-ordinated EU operation assists Greece and Albania in fighting forest fires

Brussels, 26 August 2011 - Greece has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, requesting urgent aerial assistance for fight forest fires raging in Alexandroupolis (North-East of the country). This was followed by a request for assistance from Albania. Within a few hours, the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) was able to deliver a coordinated EU operation with aerial assets provided by Spain, France and Italy.

"Greece and Albania can count on Europe's support and I would like to personally thank the member states for their immediate response to a request for assistance," said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response.

"Spain, France and Italy have given a real-time example of European solidarity. The Monitoring and Information Centre is helping to coordinate the European assistance in the crucial hours and days ahead.”

Greece has suffered large-scale forest fires in recent days. On 25th August at 12.50 p.m. the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) of the European Commission and the participating states to the Mechanism received a request from Greece for 3 aerial fire fighting modules (i.e. a total of 6 Canadair CL-415).

The MIC immediately organised an audio-conference with all Member States which have such assets. It was agreed that two aerial modules will be provided by Spain and France through a project that is financed by the EU budget. Moreover, through a cascade scheme, another aircraft will be kept on standby in France for possible deployment in Italy, which is also facing a high forest fires risk. This will allow Italy to send one CL415 plane to Albania and afterwards Greece. All the airplanes left their bases today. The MIC is also deploying a MIC liaison officer to Greece to ensure a smooth liaison on the ground between Greece, the Member States' modules and the MIC.

Background

The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 31 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).

Since 2001, the Civil Protection Mechanism has reacted to more than a hundred disasters worldwide, among them Hurricane Katrina in the USA (2005), earthquake in China (2008) and Italy (2009), earthquake in Haiti (2010) and earthquake / tsunami in Japan (2011). In the past two forest fire seasons the Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 20 times for forest fires inside and outside Europe.

For further information:

Commissioner Georgieva's website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/hot_topics/european_disaster_response_capacity_en.htm

The European Commission's work in civil protection:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/civil_protection/civil/index.htm

Contacts :

David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)

Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)


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