04 September, 2007
Greece on Monday tabled a proposal for enhanced European cooperation in confronting natural disasters, during a meeting of European Union ministerial meeting on European Neighbourhood Policy.
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, who tabled the proposal on behalf of Greece, outlined the initiative in private meetings on the sidelines of the conference with EU Council of Foreign Ministers-General Affairs chairman and Portuguese foreign minister Louis Amado,Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, and France's secretary of state for European affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet, as well as the European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas.
In statements afterwards, Bakoyannis stressed that Greece was currently in a very difficult period given the recent wildfires, which she said caused destruction of immense proportions, adding that Greece had the solidarity of the entire EU and other countries in its firefighting effort.
The Greek initiative, she said, called for the speedy establishment of a European "rapid reaction force' capable of, by virtue of a single telephone call, to rush to any country facing a natural disaster.
At the initial stage, she explained, there needed to be a political decision for the commitment of specific forces from all the member countries. The goal is for those forces to be able to act as speedily as possible in a disaster, to establish cooperation and joint exercises of these forces, with a parallel provision for funding from the European Commission.
Bakoyannis further stressed that Greece's target was to have the decision taken for establishing a European force with the required infrastructure -- which would be financed by the EU Solidarity Fund -- before the June 2009 European Parliament elections.
She said there had been substantial response to the Greek proposal by its Eu partners, while the Portuguese Eu presidency has agreed for discussion of the initiative at the General Affairs meeting in October in Luxembourg.
On her meeting with Dimas, Bakoyannis said that the commissioner's contribution to Greece's effort had been substantive, and that he backed the initiative being advanced by the country in the EU's institutional bodies.
Bakoyannis said that she further briefed her EU counterparts on the application for assistance that Greece will submit to the EU Solidarity Fund, which she noted that prime minister Costas Karamanlis has already discussed with Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and regional policy commissioner Danuta Hubner, who recently paid visits to Greece after the devastating wildfires. She added that, at political level, she had met with clear-cut support from her European counterparts.
"The fundamental message is that Europe is here. Europe stood by our side in solidarity in the difficulty we are going through and is determined to contribute to the reconstruction of the 'day after', which must be prepared well so that the funds to be received will have the best possible result," she said.
Bakoyannis further tabled a proposal that the "Fire 4" pilot programme commenced a few months ago, which provides for cooperation among the Mediterranean countries in combatting fires, should evolve into a true programme and be renamed "Fire 5" with the participation of all the Mediterranean countries, aimed at a more coordinated cooperation effort in the Mediterranean region.
She stressed that the greatest threat faced today by Europe and the world was climate change, "to which we must adjust quickly as individual countries and as Europe as a whole". This meant that all the measures must be taken that will ensure greater protection for the citizens, Bakoyannis said.
Source: Athens News Agency