Commission mulls EU north-south ‘firefighters exchange’ to tackle natural disasters

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium. EPA-EFE/JOHANNA GERON / POOL [JOHANNA GERON / POOL]

The European Commission is considering a pilot project under the name “prepositioning” to be implemented for the first time in Greece next summer. Forest firefighters from Europe’s north, such as Sweden, will settle in Greece and other countries facing major wildfires during the summer months.

The idea was raised on Tuesday in Athens by EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and Greece’s Civil Protection Minister Evripides Stylianides on the sidelines of a meeting of the members of the European Civil Protection Mechanism on the “lessons learned from the 2021 fire season”.

According to the plan, in the event of a major crisis, such as the one Greece faced last August, the response time of the European mechanism to a request from a member state will be minimised. The RescEU mechanism will mobilise forces already on the ground.

During the winter, firefighters from Greece will be stationed in Europe’s north, assisting their colleagues in dealing with heavy rainfall and flooding and acquiring expertise in dealing with similar phenomena. Stylianides, who has served as an EU Commissioner himself, pledged full support to Commissioner Lenarčič’s efforts to make the European Mechanism Civil Protection Mechanism “stronger”.

Referring to the capabilities of the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism, Lenarčič said Europe’s response capacity in the face of the new reality that is taking shape needs to strengthen.

(Matthaios Tsimitakis|

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