04 September, 2007
Ms. Bakoyannis submitted Greece’s proposal for enhanced European cooperation in responding to natural disasters, as well as a proposal for assistance for citizens affected by natural disasters, at the Ministerial Conference on the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy which was held on 3 September 2007, in Brussels. In a press conference, the Foreign Minister stated that Europe should proceed at the soonest possible time to the creation of an intervention force that will be able to intervene in response to natural disasters in any country following just a single phone call. Ms. Bakoyannis clarified that at an initial stage there will have to be a political decision on the commitment of specific forces by all member states. The objective is for these forces to be able to act as rapidly as possible in any disaster area, and for there to be cooperation and joint exercises for these forces and provision for funding from the European Commission. The Foreign Minister also stressed that the goal is for a decision to be taken before the 2009 European elections on the creation of a European force with the necessary infrastructure, which will be funded by the EU Solidarity Fund.
In Brussels, Ms. Bakoyannis had meetings with Portuguese Foreign Minister Mr. Luis Amado, whose country holds the Presidency of the General Affairs Council, Spanish Foreign Minister Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, French Secretary of State for European Affairs Mr. Jean-Pierre Jouyet, and EU Environment Commissioner Mr. Stavros Dimas. Ms. Bakoyannis stressed that the response to Greece’s proposal from all of our European partners was very strong, and it was agreed with the Portuguese Presidency for this proposal to be one of the issues for discussion at the October General Affairs Council, which will be held in Luxembourg.
The Foreign Minister also briefed her EU colleagues regarding the request for assistance by the EU Solidarity Fund that Greece intends to table, an issue that has already been raised by Prime Minister Mr. Kostas Karamanlis with European Commission President Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso and competent Regional Policy Commissioner Ms. Hubner. The Foreign Minister pointed out: “What is important as a message is that Europe is here, Europe is standing by us in solidarity during this difficult time, and Europe is determined to contribute to reconstruction the day after. A day after that must be well prepared so that this funding can have the optimum result.”
The Foreign Minister also put forward a proposal for the pilot programme ‘Fire Four’, which started a few months ago and provides for a collaboration between Mediterranean countries on fighting fires, to become a real programme and be renamed ‘Fire Five’, with the participation of all the Mediterranean countries, in order for there to be a more coordinated cooperation effort in the Mediterranean region.