Today Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič is meeting the Italian Minister for Civil Protection and Sea Policies, Nello Musumeci, for the opening session of the European Civil Protection Mechanism “lessons learnt” meeting on wildfires and floods.
The meeting involves 54 representatives from 30 European countries that are part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Together they will identify and share lessons and good practices from the Mechanism's deployments not only in Europe but also in Bolivia, Canada, Chile or Tunisia in 2023. Unlike previous years, today's meeting will go beyond wildfires and will focus also on floods, following this summer's extreme weather events.
The outcome of discussions will be used to further improve the EU's response, as well incorporate relevant findings into trainings. While climate change is difficult to reverse, we must be better prepared to address its consequences and minimise the effects.
During his visit to Italy, Commissioner Lenarčič is also meeting with the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, and the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
These extreme weather events are more recurrent due to a result of climate change. On 6 August, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated for the first time within the same day for both flood and wildfire emergencies, when flooding affected two thirds of Slovenia and wildfires raged in Cyprus. This further stresses the increasing complexity of natural disasters and the simultaneity of extreme weather events in Europe and globally.
In total, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 10 times, mobilising 27 planes, 1 helicopter and around 1700 firefighters for wildfires across the world in 2023.
11 Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) sent almost 450 firefighters to be prepositioned in France, Greece, and Portugal.
In addition the Mechanism was activated 4 times for floods mobilising High Capacity Pumping (HCP) modules from the European Civil Protection Pool (ECPP), response teams, excavators, vehicles, dump trucks, bridges, helicopters, environmental experts, in kind assistance such as water tanks, shelter items and over 400 personnel from European countries were deployed to support the emergency response efforts.
Wildfire prevention, preparedness and response actions work hand in hand to save lives, livelihoods and protect the environment. Having experienced wildfire experts, well-trained firefighters, information technology and sufficient response assets available makes a difference.
The EU ensures a coordinated approach to preventing, preparing and responding to wildfires when those overwhelm national response capacities. When the scale of a wildfire overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Once activated, the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates and finances assistance made available by EU Member States and nine additional Participating States through spontaneous offers. In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response. Should the emergency require additional, life-saving assistance, the rescEU firefighting reserve steps in to provide additional capacities to confront disasters in Europe. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre also monitors the evolution of wildfires with the support of early warning systems such as the European Forest Fire Information System, while the EU's Copernicus emergency satellite mapping service complements operations with detailed information from space.
"In Europe, climate breakdown is no longer some distant news. Extreme weather events, overwhelming national response services, are becoming an almost annual occurrence all around our continent. We can be proud that this year again we stood together. That no request for assistance to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism went unanswered. To keep up with the increasing rate and intensity of disasters, we must continue strengthening the Mechanism, and I call on Member States to sustain their preparedness, prevention and adaptation efforts." - Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management - 30/11/2023
- European Commission