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Document selected : B7-0042/2009

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PV 16/09/2009 - 7.3

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to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission

pursuant to Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the forest fires in the summer of 2009

Michail Tremopoulos, François Alfonsi, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Oriol Junqueras Vies on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

European Parliament resolution on the forest fires in the summer of 2009   

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its resolutions of 7 September 2006 on forest fires and floods, 5 September 2002 on floods in Europe, 14 April 2005 on the drought in Portugal, 12 May 2005 on the drought in Spain, 8 September 2005 on natural disasters (fires and floods) in Europe, its three resolutions of 18 May 2006 on natural disasters (forest fires, droughts and floods) – agricultural aspects, regional development aspects and environmental aspects, and, in particular, its resolution of 4 September 2007 on this summer's natural disasters,

–   having regard to the Barnier report entitled 'For a European civil protection force: Europe aid',

–   having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the total area of vegetation and woodland that has been affected by the fires in Europe this summer is more than 200 000 hectares, and whereas the countries worst hit are Greece, France (in particular Corsica), Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain (in particular the Canary Islands),

B.  whereas several Member States have offered support to help fight the forest-fire emergency,

C. whereas recent years have shown that the problems of forest fires and drought will become increasingly acute, with extremely dry summers growing more and more common, and whereas investment in combating climate change is therefore an investment in preventing the catastrophes of drought and forest fires,

D. whereas the high number of fires in southern Europe in 2009, as well as their extent, is the result of a number of factors, including criminal acts and the inadequate implementation of laws prohibiting illegal building on burnt land, but also of climate change, the inadequate definition and management of forests and a combination of natural causes and human negligence,

E.  whereas pressure to change the land-use rules governing forest areas and to build and tolerate illegal constructions has contributed to the deterioration in the protection of the forests in Greece, resulting in fires being started deliberately in some regions,

1.  Deplores the loss of life and injuries suffered as a result of the forest fires and expresses its solidarity with the inhabitants of the areas devastated by them;

2.  Deplores the failure to implement recommendations made in its earlier resolutions on natural disasters;

3.  Welcomes the cooperation and assistance offered by other Member States to the affected areas in the framework of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection; supports the continuation of the pilot project for combating forest fires, pending the establishment of a permanent European Civil Protection Force; urges the Commission to follow up the Barnier report with concrete proposals for a European cooperation capability which can respond more rapidly to natural disasters;

4.  Notes that the damage caused by the forest fires and other natural disasters could, to a large extent, have been prevented and should provide an incentive for the national, regional and local authorities concerned to develop, fund and implement more efficient prevention policies and suitable legislation on conservation and appropriate land use, including sustainable farm and forestry practices, water management and efficient risk management;

5.  Deplores the fact that so many of these forest fires appear to have been started by acts of arson, and is particularly concerned that criminal acts of this kind are increasingly to blame for forest fires in Europe; calls on the Member States, therefore, to strengthen and make use of penal sanctions for criminal acts that damage the environment and, in particular, for those causing forest fires, and believes that prompt and effective investigations in order to establish liability, followed by proportionate punishment, would discourage negligent and deliberate behaviour;

6.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to take measures, including measures to raise public awareness, in support of more sustainable use of water, soil and biological resources and better waste management, the absence of which is often the cause of fires;

7.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the regions affected to draw up restoration and rehabilitation plans for the affected areas, including compulsory conditions which guarantee that all possible fire-prevention and rapid fire extinguishing measures are taken in those regions;

8.  Calls for the co-financing from Community funds, particularly the Structural Funds, the EAFRD, the Cohesion Fund and the European Solidarity Fund, of the implementation of such plans, to be made conditional on the genuine reafforestation of the entire affected areas, with local, equivalent tree varieties replacing the former forest, and on measures aimed at preventing any repeat of such disasters;

9.  Calls on the Commission to report on Community funds granted for forest-fire protection and to indicate whether they have been used in an appropriate manner;

10. Believes that no land-use change after forest fires should be allowed and calls for the penalty of repayment of Community aid to be imposed on any Member State which does not reafforest the affected area or allows a change of land use for any speculative urbanisation and tourism projects;

11. Believes that a precondition for the long-term protection of forest areas is the sustainable programming and implementation of regional and rural development plans that aim to prevent the rural population from abandoning rural areas, to create new, diversified forms of rural income, especially for young people, and to establish the modernised infrastructure which is needed to attract sustainable tourism and services to rural areas;

12. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create incentives for farmers, rural entrepreneurs and forest owners to employ farming and forestry practices that effectively and measurably reduce the risks linked to extreme climatic conditions and forest fires;

13. Believes that special attention to measures to enhance the accessibility of rural communities, effective fire early-warning systems, better voluntary and professional fire-prevention forces and better water management should be part of the policies to prevent and fight forest fires and that future support from the European Union should be made conditional on the implementation of such measures;

14. Believes that, in addition to an effective and unambiguous role for public policies, awareness-raising, education and vocational training measures which together serve to increase personal responsibility for preventing repeated incidents involving fires in the Mediterranean region must be initiated and carried out by the responsible authorities at all levels concerned, as part of rural and regional development programmes, with a view to preventing natural disasters;

15. Calls on the Greek Government to immediately draw up a land register for forests, to use existing forest maps effectively, and draw up new ones where required, to organise and staff forest and fire protection services properly, and ensure coordination and cooperation amongst them;

16. Condemns the practice of legalising illegal buildings erected on protected and non-authorised land;

17. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of the Member States concerned.

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