European Union invests €600M to enhance aerial firefighting capacity across Europe

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In a proactive move to bolster Europe’s firefighting capabilities, the European Commission has allocated €600 million to finance the acquisition of new firefighting planes. This strategic investment aims to augment the aerial firefighting capacity of rescEU, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism’s crisis response reserve. The funding will be utilized to procure 12 new planes, which will be strategically stationed across six EU Member States: Croatia, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

These aircraft will play a crucial role in extinguishing fires across the European Union, particularly during the challenging summer months when large-scale forest fires pose a significant threat to lives, homes, and livelihoods.

Scheduled for delivery starting in 2027, these new planes will complement the existing rescEU transition fleet, ensuring a seamless transition until the entire fleet becomes operational.

The announcement coincides with Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenar?i?’s participation in Zagreb, where he attended the signature ceremony of an agreement between the Croatian government and the Canadian Commercial Corporation. This agreement, along with a similar one signed by the Greek government recently, represents a significant milestone in bolstering the EU’s aerial firefighting capacity and safeguarding citizens from disasters.

Five years ago, the European Commission upgraded the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and established rescEU to enhance disaster protection and manage emerging risks. Fully funded by the EU, rescEU serves as a reserve of European capacities, including a fleet of firefighting planes and helicopters.

In 2023 alone, rescEU was deployed 35 times, providing assistance valued at €110 million. This assistance was instrumental in responding to various crises, including Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, earthquakes in Türkiye, and wildfires in Tunisia and Greece.

The EU adopts a coordinated approach to preventing, preparing for, and responding to wildfires that overwhelm national response capacities. When a wildfire exceeds a country’s capabilities, it can request assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Upon activation, the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates and finances assistance provided by 27 EU Member States and 10 Participating States through spontaneous offers.

Recent agreements between the Croatian and Greek governments and the Canadian Commercial Corporation signify a significant step forward in enhancing Europe’s aerial firefighting fleet. With six Member States set to host the new aircraft financed by the Commission under rescEU, the EU reaffirms its commitment to proactive disaster management and protecting citizens across the continent.

On 25 March 2024, the Croatian government signed an agreement with the Canadian Commercial Corporation for the purchase of medium amphibious aircraft. A similar agreement was signed by the Greek government on 24 March. Six EU Member States (Greece, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal) will host the new aerial firefighting fleet financed by the Commission under rescEU.

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