03 September, 2007
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso flew in a helicopter over wildfire-stricken regions of the western Peloponnese on Saturday morning for two hours to ascertain the extent of the destruction, holding talks in Athens afterwards.
Speaking after their meeting, and said in Greek to emphasise his words, Barroso said "Europe is on the side of Greece," adding that "we are by your side and we shall remain by your side. The problem of Greece is also the problem of Europe." Barroso said that it is an unprecedented situation and that the damage is very extensive. He also stressed that when an assessment will have been made of damage caused to the economy and to the environment, the European Commission will activate the Solidarity Fund and whatever else is necessary to help Greece.
Karamanlis underlined that the European Union showed its solidarity immediately and that "our partners made a direct contribution to efforts to extinguish the wildfires ... The European Union is standing by Greece's side, it is a valuable ally of ours in pursuing without delay the reconstruction of the regions that were burnt," Karamanlis said.
The prime minister said the EU "showed its solidarity for Greece's ordeal" and pointed out that our partners offered valuable assistance to Greek firefighting forces by sending aerial firefighting means and specially trained firefighters.
Karamanlis further said that the Greek proposal for strengthened cooperation in Europe in the sector of protecting citizens and coordinated action to battle natural disasters received a positive response from Barroso and noted that Europe can prove on a daily basis that it stands by citizens.
"The European Commission is standing by Greece's side at this difficult time, helping our priority to support our fellow countrymen who have experienced and are experiencing difficult times," the Greek prime minister said.
Karamanlis further said that Barroso, Commissioner Danuta Hubner and Commissioner Stavros Dimas have shown their support in practice and that as soon as the assessment of damage has been completed all necessary procedures will be activated to facilitate immediate and substantive support from the Solidarity Fund and the Community Support Framework.
The prime minister expressed confidence that Barroso will continue to handle the issue personally and that the European Commission "will contribute decisively and at a speedy pace to the restoration of damage in the stricken regions."
Barroso said, on his part, that the Greek people must feel certain that they are not alone and that Europe is standing by their side in this time of need, while also expressing his condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.
"We agreed at the Commission that we shall be making every effort possible to support Greece and, in this direction, we are ready to take into consideration claims that will be coming from Greece, as soon as the assessment of damage has been completed," he further said.
"We are ready to activate the Solidarity Fund, that has been created in the EU, precisely to handle such situations. For this reason, Commissioner Danuta Hubner, who is responsible for regional aid, has come here for contacts with the Greek government, to see the situation and to ascertain whether more Funds must be activated, apart from the Solidarity Fund. What is necessary for this to take place is a full evaluation and assessment of the economic, as well as of the environmental, damage. And a certain initiative by the government will also be necessary. What I have seen confirmed for me that the damage is very great," Barroso concluded.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, who will be presenting his party's programme on the reconstruction of wildfire-stricken regions in the country during his visit to the prefecture of Ilia on Sunday, met on Saturday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Papandreou, in his capacity of President of the Socialist International, sent a letter to the leaders and party members of the International on the repercussions of the wildfires in Greece and on the acceptance of the proposal by its Secretary General Louis Ayala for a meeting of the Committee of the Socialist International on the viable World Society at Ancient Olympia.
The PASOK leader stressed in his letter that "in the past days the entire world became a witness of the tragic events that took place in Greece with uncontrollable fires destroying land, animals and, what is worse, costing human lives."
Papandreou added that "since my country is experiencing the worst diaster since the Second World War, I am taking the courage to appeal to you over the unprecedented destruction that Greece has experienced."
He concluded by saying in his letter that "let us choose the place of the Olympic Movement and of the Olympic Truce as the place where our Organisation will inaugurate a new political agenda."
Source: Athens News Agency