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“Solidarity is the EU’s most precious value.”

Incendies grèce avion grec
Dimitrios Vlassis

For the past month now, wildfires have been raging across Southern Europe, including Italy, Turkey, and Greece. Two of the European Democratic Party’s (EDP) members comment on how the EU has been helping to fight the outbreaks.

More than 800 fires broke out in Greece during the first week of August alone. Wildfires in the Mediterranean are made more likely by the make-up of forests combined with extreme heat waves caused by climate change, the possibility of arson, as well as power grids prone to malfunctions in extreme weather conditions.

“Despite town and villages being evacuated and the army being called in to assist, it became clear within 48 hours of the fires breaking out that additional help was required,” said Dimosthenis Danellas from the EDP’s Greek member party Union of Centrists (EK).

Greece subsequently asked for assistance from any EU country that could spare resources and manpower through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism which was strengthened just this April. France, Cyprus, Croatia, Sweden, Romania, Spain, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, and Austria responded with personnel and equipment (100 vehicles, 700+ personnel, 10 firefighting airplanes), as well as non-EU countries Ukraine, Israel, Switzerland, Egypt, UK, Kuwait, Qatar, Moldova, UAE, and Serbia.

“The decisive and heroic actions of the forces involved resulted, for the most part, in containing the fires and preventing further property and infrastructure loss”, Dimosthenis Danellas said.

Our Romanian MEP Corina Creţu (PRO România) commented: “By fighting the flames that have taken over Greece, the Romanian firefighters are making a great contribution to European solidarity. I think that, especially in these moments, the benefits of belonging to the European Union are obvious. Solidarity is the most precious value of this common political project.”

Our French MEP Christophe Grudler, Renew Europe Group Vice-Coordinator for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), said: “I hope that Europe will make solidarity between all its member states a reality by putting in place a European rapid intervention force against forest fires, as is being developed at the moment with rescEU. Quickly neutralising wildfires is essential to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal. Because what is the point of trying to decarbonise our industry, our transport systems, our daily life, if we let forest fires destroy our efforts to reduce carbon emissions?”

Corina Creţu, a former European Commissioner for Regional Policy, concluded: “These fires - which have engulfed several European countries - demonstrate once again the need for the European Union to have its own fleet of aircraft to respond to natural disasters in the Member States. Unfortunately, we can expect such tragedies to happen again - perhaps even on a larger scale, which means that the EU needs to be even better prepared.”

Dimosthenis Danellas added: “Climate change is certain to lead to more wildfires and other extreme weather phenomena in the future, throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The EU should take action now to further educate the general public on avoiding causes of accidental fires and the municipalities need to rethink their local defense mechanisms against extreme weather. The EU should also mandate member states to make power grids more resilient against extreme weather conditions and all EU member states need to contribute to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.”