With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for people affected by forest fires.
Forest fires devastate thousands of hectares of forest every year in Europe, affecting the population of countries at greatest risk of forest fires, such as Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia. In 2017, fires destroyed a forested area of Europe four times the size of Luxembourg. In Portugal alone, more than 100 people were killed in summer 2017.
Supporting countries to prevent and combat fires, to restore affected areas, and inform the public about the risks, are priorities for the EU. A coordination centre (set up in Brussels) monitors hazards, such as the risk of forest fires throughout Europe. When fires occur and when national capacities are insufficient, it coordinates assistance from other European countries through a civil protection mechanism. An EU funded mapping service can also provide satellite maps for forest fire related emergencies.
Following a fire, various EU funds, such as the EU Solidarity Fund, can be used to restore vital infrastructure and for clean-up operations. A country can also ask for changes to existing EU programmes to help with its specific needs on the ground. This was the case when a change to the cohesion policy programme was approved to redirect up to €45 million to deal with the consequences of fires that hit Portugal’s central region in 2017. EU funds have also been allocated for specific forest fire prevention and restoration measures, and for forest fire related research.
- EPRS publication on ‘Climate-friendly forest management in the EU’, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/595858/EPRS_BRI(2016)595858_EN.pdf
- European Commission’s Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations website, http://ec.europa.eu/echo/what-we-do/civil-protection/forest-fires_en
- European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment website, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/fires.htm#