Forest fires in southern Europe: reinforcing the European Union's response
ORAL QUESTION WITH DEBATE O-0065/08
pursuant to Rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure
by Martin Schulz, Constanze Angela Krehl, Stavros Lambrinidis, Stavros Arnaoutakis and Anni Podimata, on behalf of the PSE Group
to the Commission
The vast forest fires during the summer of 2007 in regions of southern Europe highlighted the importance of preparedness and well-coordinated cross-border action, mutual cooperation and EU-level coordination in cases of unusual natural disasters. During 2008, a number of early spring forest fires in several EU countries, aggravated by the challenge of climate change, have raised the alarm that large-scale fire incidents could be repeated in the forthcoming summer.
In view of all these incidents, and their effects on EU efforts for economic and social cohesion, environmental protection, and preservation of cultural heritage, preventing such natural disasters has become a matter of utmost importance for Member States and for the European Union as a whole.
The Commission recently adopted a Communication (COM(2008)0130 - 5.3.2008) to reinforce the Union's disaster response capacity, with a new Community Civil Protection Mechanism which will serve as an operational centre for the coordination of response to disasters. While this is an encouraging development as regards addressing the consequences of major natural disasters in the future, is there already any tangible, comprehensive approach to disaster prevention at EU level? After the experiences of last year, what were the concrete measures from the Commission and the Member States for the coordination and effectiveness of Community programmes and actions in preventing disasters and mitigating their consequences, taking into account that such disasters can have grave consequences both for the protection of Europe's natural and cultural heritage and for the subsequent allocation of Community funds needed to mitigate the effects of catastrophes? What stage has the Commission reached in setting up a project for establishing a disaster prevention mechanism? What steps has it taken to speed up its implementation? What are the take-up rates of Community appropriations committed, primarily but not exclusively in southern European Member States, for protection from forest fires and other major natural disasters (e.g. floods)? Are there specific budgetary provisions for urgent support in the forthcoming summer period? Has the Commission evaluated the effectiveness of Member States' preparedness and cooperation mechanisms in the prevention and response during last summer's forest fire emergencies and what urgent, practical measures has the Commission taken in order to respond to the major needs in the forthcoming summer?
Deadline for reply: 19.06.2008