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European Union helps former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to tackle forest fires

Macédoine du Nord
Date de publication


Brussels, 31 July 2007. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia requested EU assistance to fight the fires that have been ravaging through its woodlands these last days. As the EU candidate country struggles to quell them, it has turned to the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection for support. The European Commission and participating states to the Mechanism responded with a substantial amount of assistance making its way to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Concurrently the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection has also been activated for forest fires in Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece and Italy.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This gesture of solidarity to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia comes at a time when Europe's southern frontiers are burning, using up all of the resources we have available.''

Early in the morning of 24 July 2007, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia requested civil protection assistance from its European partners. The request triggered a rapid reaction from the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC). The MIC immediately alerted the civil protection authorities of the 30 countries participating in the Community Civil Protection Mechanism.

Fires rage throughout the country

Some 22 fires are currently eating up woodland, with new ones breaking out sporadically. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has put all its national resources to task, nevertheless assistance was requested for fire fighting airplanes, different types of protective gear and fire-fighting material and forest fire-fighting units, including trucks and personnel.

Several countries offered assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through the civil protection mechanism:

- Slovenia: 1 helicopter

- Norway: Protective boots and gloves, first-aid kits, fire hoses, water pumps and other material assistance

- Denmark: Breathing apparatus and protection masks

- Poland: water hoses, foam concentrate and other operational resources

- Czech Republic: helmets

- Germany: axes, water-pumps, saws, an inflatable boat and a water-tank

- Austria and Sweden: 2 wild fire experts to help the national authorities in their efforts to extinguish the fires.

Most of the above-mentioned assistance has already arrived in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or is on its way.

The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection

The Community Mechanism[1] aims to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions. It ensures the coordination of assistance intervention in order to provide prompt support and to assist a country (inside and outside the European Union) in need of help. The main objective is to provide the best possible response and preparedness when a major emergency situation arises.

Such activities are coordinated by the Commission through the activation of its Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), located in DG Environment, Civil Protection Unit.

Some 30 states[2] participate in the Community Mechanism. These pool those resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world through this mechanism.

Since its creation, the Mechanism has been activated for a number of disasters worldwide, including the 2003 earthquake in Iran; the 2004 tsunami affected South East Asia; the 2005 forest fires in Portugal, flooding in Bulgaria and Romania, Hurricane Katrina in the US and the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, the Lebanon crisis in 2006. This year the Mechanism was activated for floods in Bolivia, as well as forest fires in Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

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[1] Council Decision of 23 October (2001/792/EC, Euratom) (OJ L297, 15.11.2001, p.7)

[2] EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway