The EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic says it is vital that the EU has more firefighting aircraft capacity in order to respond to another hot summer.
There is little doubt among experts: Europe will endure a difficult summer in 2023.
The European Union will therefore double the capacity of its firefighting fleet, with 28 aircraft in total, for a summer that promises to be "intense" after major devastation in 2022, announced the Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic.
"This year is already much drier than average. And this drought, combined with the heat we are expecting, is of course a major driver of forest fires", the Slovenian commissioner said in an interview with the European Newsroom, a group of European press agencies.
Following the "hottest summer on record in Europe" in 2022, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the European fleet of water-bombing aircraft and helicopters would be doubled.
The EU reserve has increased from 13 to 28 aircraft, stationed in 10 Member States (Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden).
They are ready to be deployed from June to October in the event of an emergency, to provide aid to a country whose resources are overwhelmed.
These include 10 Canadairs, 14 light amphibious aircraft and four helicopters.
"We have approximately doubled the number of aircraft and the capacity in terms of the volume of water that can be transported", said the Commissioner.
In addition, more than 400 fire-fighters are pre-positioned in Greece, France and Portugal, he added, speaking from the EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre.
This centre, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, coordinates the delivery of aid to countries hit by a major disaster anywhere in the world.
This EU civil protection mechanism has been used to send equipment, food and medicines to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of its country, or in response to the Covid-19 pandemic (sending vaccines to third countries, organising the repatriation of European citizens, etc.). More recently, it helped the populations affected by the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Established in 2001, the mechanism was activated on average 20 times a year for the first 20 years, and is now activated more than 100 times a year, said Janez Lenarcic, who believes that more financial resources should be allocated to it in the future.
"Because of climate change, we are witnessing increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters", he stressed, pointing to the devastating floods in the summer of 2021 in Germany and Belgium, as well as those currently affecting Italy.