In the event of disasters, EU countries help each other. Joining civil protection measures in the European Union is now a problem.
Because of the drought, forests have burned in different regions of Europe and Switzerland this summer. In the Bordeaux region of France, the French government was forced to seek international assistance. Italian and Swedish firefighting planes finally helped fight the fire.
This was possible on the basis of civil protection measures in the European Union. Member states help each other in the event of major natural disasters. Other countries can participate as well, and many do, for example Norway, Great Britain or Iceland.
Help thanks to the bilateral agreement with Italy
In Ticino near Gambarogno, near the Italian border, the forest caught fire in early February. It took days to bring the fire under control, with the help of two Italian firefighting planes.
Italy helped Switzerland on the basis of a bilateral agreement with the canton of Ticino, but also because the Italian forest areas were threatened by fire. Since then, the risk of forest fires has increased sharply in the rest of Switzerland until summer. Although it has been raining in the last few days, it is still very dry almost everywhere.
High risk of forest fires
Risk analyzes are carried out on an ongoing basis at the Federal Office for Civil Protection (Babs). “We see forest fires as one of the most common risks we face in Switzerland,” Roland Bollin, deputy chief of staff and head of international affairs at Babs, says of the current bushfire risk. It is very likely that large forest fires will break out in Switzerland in the future.
But why isn’t Switzerland participating in the EU’s civil protection measures? For now, the cantons still seem to have enough money to help themselves, says Roland Paulin. “Right now, we have never seen an event that would have actually required international assistance at a higher level. But this may change quickly in the future.”
Civil protection measures have been in place in the European Union since 2001. Thanks to this, major natural disasters can be quickly combated across borders. Last year, a study by the Center for Security Studies at ETH in Zurich concluded that membership would have advantages primarily for Switzerland.
Civil Protection Mechanism in the European Union
In October 2001, the European Commission did Civil Protection Mechanism in the European Union furnished. This aims to enhance cooperation between EU Member States and six other participating countries in the field of civil protection. In addition, prevention, preparedness and response to disasters must be improved.
When an emergency overwhelms a country’s ability to respond in Europe and beyond, the country can seek help through action. The European Union Commission is responsible for the global coordination of disaster relief and bears at least 75 per cent of the costs of operations. Since 2001, the European Union’s civil protection mechanism has been used more than 500 times in emergency situations.
also in Report of the Federal Council on the prevention and control of forest fires January states that Switzerland’s access to expert knowledge, practical experience and resources for EU civil protection measures must be clarified. There are bilateral agreements with neighboring countries on mutual assistance in case of disasters.
But now there is pressure from politics, from Michel Mater, the National Assembly in Geneva and vice-chairman of Switzerland’s Green Liberals: “We must act now, seeing the next few years and trying to increase our security.”
So, Matter invites the Federal Council to submit a formal application for Switzerland to join the civil protection measures in the European Union. “At the moment, we have no guarantee that other countries will help us,” he added.
The article intends to make a similar proposal at the upcoming fall session. According to Roland Bollin vom Babs, it would cost Switzerland to join about eight million francs annually. Intrusion could cost Switzerland a lot in the future.
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