Forest Fires in Europe 2005


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The European Union is supporting since the Eighties the efforts implemented by Member States to fight forest fires in all their stages: prevention, suppression and restoration. That’s because forest fires can severely affect all the functions developed by the forests of the Community from the economic, ecologic and social point of view; they can also better and more effectively be counteracted thanks to common EU activities.

One of the most recent tools in this sense is represented by the Council and European Parliament Regulation (EC) N. 2152/2003 of 17 November 2003 on the monitoring of forests and of environmental interactions in the Community (Forest Focus). This Regulation replaced two previous regulations aiming to protect the forests of the community and integrated them into a new scheme having a broader approach. The new scheme is composed by two main connected pillars: the monitoring of the forest health and the prevention of forest fires.

Concerning forest fires, it has to be recalled that the scheme represents the continuation of Regulation (EEC) N. 2158/92 of the protection of the Community forests against forest fires – focused on prevention – and the natural complement of the forest fires measures established in the field thanks to Regulation (EC) N. 2157/1999 of 17 May 1999 on Rural Development.

Forest Focus has been implemented through national programmes submitted by the EU Member States for the years 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. These programmes have been revised by the European Commission and approved through Commission decisions for the years 2003-2004, 2005 and 2006 in accordance to the financial rules of the European Union. The countries involved in the implementation of the forest fires prevention measures were those that had already implemented the previous scheme (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain), Finland, and some of the new member states who joined the European Union and the scheme in 2004 (Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia).

Forest Focus regulation focused mainly on forest monitoring and the related collection of data. Concerning fires, it offered the same range of forest fires prevention measures already co-financed by the previous scheme, provided that they were not already included in the rural development programmes submitted by Member States. The EU financial framework for the implementation of the whole scheme for the period 2003-2006 was EUR 65 million, of which some 9 million were to be used for forest fire prevention measures. Due to this limited amount it is clear that the support provided by the scheme was merely symbolic.

So far the most important achievement of the Regulation is probably represented by the continuation, improvement and enhancement of the forest fire database, a complete and unique collection of information on the fires occurred in the Union during last decades and linked to EFFIS (the European Forest Fires Information System) in order to further exploit its potential.

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