Thursday

13th May 2021

Greek fires prompt plans for permanent EU emergency forces

The European Commission is considering new ways of how to boost EU emergency assistance to member states in crisis, prompted by the raging fires in Greece.

Brussels' plans come as several member states help Greece tackle forest fires which broke out last Friday (24 August) and have so far claimed at least 60 lives.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We have two major fires broken out in Glifada and Sofiko, which is in the area of Corinth and we have 9000 fire fighters fighting the fires and 4500 seasonal fire fighters and 1000 soldiers helping the fire fighters," said a commission spokeswoman.

Following Athens' call for help within the EU's mechanism for civil protection, nine countries have responded with concrete proposals which the commission said was "the biggest offer of assistance to a member state since the Mechanism was set up in 2001."

France, Italy and Spain provided seven fire-fighting Canadair planes, with another one set to arrive from Portugal on Monday (27 August), along with nine specialised helicopters offered by Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Austria which are being dispatched.

France has also flown in fire-fighting brigades and Austria is getting some ready to be sent in the coming days.

A few non-EU countries, such as Israel and Russia, have also offered assistance bilaterally, according to press reports.

The EU executive's spokeswoman said several commission directorates are currently seeking ways to boost the bloc's ability to react in similar situations as it seems the existing system "may not be enough to react as quickly as one wishes to."

Brussels is contemplating setting up some sort of "standing intervention force" for different types of crises. The idea is to speed up joint actions so disasters can be tackled within hours of breaking out.

She added that the new concept could be unveiled as early as this autumn and it would be worked out according to several scenarios on how to best coordinate the emergency teams from different countries.

The envisaged "modules" - with eleven identified so far, one of them a forest-fighting module - would consist of "readily-deployable, pre-defined specialised clusters of personnel and equipment," according to the commission.

The spokeswoman stressed however "We're not talking about a European force based in Brussels, here in the European Commission, about ready to be launched when the crisis happens. We're not talking about that."

Luxembourg tax scandal may prompt EU action

An investigation into Luxembourg's tax regime has uncovered how the Italian mafia, the Russian underworld, and billionaires attempt to stash away their wealth. The European Commission has put itself on standby amid suggestions changes to EU law may be needed.

Investigation

Portugal vs Germany clash on EU corporate tax avoidance

Portugal's taking over the EU presidency puts the tax transparency law for corporations - which has been fought over for years - to a vote in the Council of Ministers. The resistance of the German government has failed.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us