18/06/2012 - Greece last Saturday night (16 June) activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The country was facing serious forest fires raging close to Keratea, South Attica. The fires were threatening residential areas. Greece needed fire fighting modules consisting of Canadair CL/415 fire bombers to support their own forces engaged in the campaign.
Within 39 minutes, the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) was able to make a first offer to Greece coming from the Italian Civil Protection Department. 2 Italian Canadairs with 10 crew left from Ciampino airbase yesterday morning. Bulgaria has also offered a fire-fighting helicopter. In a first gesture of solidarity through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, new member of the mechanism Croatia has also offered one fire-fighting jet to Greece.
"Greece can count on Europe's support in these difficult times. Our Monitoring and Information Centre is helping to coordinate the European assistance in the crucial hours and days ahead. I am grateful to our Italian colleagues for this swift demonstration of solidarity” said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
Following the request for assistance, the Brussels-based Monitoring and Information Centre immediately made contact with all Member States that have such aerial assets. Greece accepted the offer of Italy. The Italian fire fighting module left its base in the morning of 17 June.
The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response among 32 European states (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). The participating countries pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world. When activated, the Mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union. The European Commission manages the Mechanism through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC).
Since 2001, the CPM has reacted to more than a hundred disasters worldwide, among them Hurricane Katrina in the USA (2005), earthquake in China (2008) and Italy (2009), earthquake in Haiti (2010) and earthquake/tsunami in Japan (2011). In the past two forest fire seasons the Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM) was activated 20 times for forest fires inside and outside Europe.