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The European Forest Fire Information System in the context of environmental policies of the European Union

Since the mid-20th century, countries in Europe have been organized to record information on forest fires and their effects. These initiatives were established at regional and often national level, without major interaction among countries in Europe. With the expansion of the European Union in the 1980s, when Mediterranean countries were incorporated in the EU, the issue of forest fires increased in relevance, mainly due to the damages caused by fires in the natural areas of these countries. Initial EU policies related to fires date back to the 1980s, in which the European Union elaborated the first voluntary Regulations to support the development of forest fire information systems in the countries. Although EU environmental policies promoted the development of national systems, the first steps towards the development of a European fire information system did not take place until the late 1990s. Such a system was initially discussed between the European Commission services and the Member States in 1998. Although the development of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) started at this time, its official establishment came only in place with the publication of the Forest Focus regulation in 2003, which included within its implementation rules the reference to EFFIS. Since its establishment, EFFIS has influenced the further development of EU environmental policies on forest protection. It has further shaped the link of these to other forest and regional policies, which, although not fire-specific, did address the issue of damages caused by fires to the European environment and its population. The present article describes the steps in the development of the EUfire policies and EFFIS. It provides a synoptic view of how fires are included in different sectoral policies of the EU, and suggests ways in which the continuation of forest fire monitoring and management may be included in future European policies.