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EU solidarity needed in crisis and disasters

2009/08/24

Heavy forest fires have hit parts of Greece during the past few days, resulting in tragedies with thousands of people homeless as the fires are coming closer to Athens. Greece is now assisted by French, Italian and Cypriot aircraft in fighting the fires.

Though each country is primarily responsible for managing crises on its territory, it’s important that EU Member States show solidarity and help each other when natural or man-made disasters occur –like in the case of Greece.

This is also a field where the EU needs to become a stronger actor. Protecting its citizens by preventing and coordinating crisis management int the event of disasters and serious threats is, and must be, a core task of the European Union.

But if Europe is to become an actor to count on in this field, the Union’s crisis management structures need to become more effective and predictable.

Shared assessments and situation reports, a developed Monitoring and Information Centre (the unit dealing with requests for assistance) in the Commission, better coordination between with the Member States and closer consular cooperation are some of the issues that we need to consider further. The Lisbon Treaty’s solidarity clause, obliging Member States to assist each other in crisis and disasters, will no doubt make this work much easier.

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