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In response to an additional request for assistance by Portuguese authorities, on 29 August, the European Commission's Emergency Response Centre (ERC) has facilitated the provision of additional aircraft to help put out the forest fires raging in Portugal. Croatia alone responded to this new call for aid, proposing to send two fire-fighting aircraft. They reached the site on 31 August after being refuelled during their journey by France, have been in operation since 1 September and remained in Portugal until 3 September.

Portuguese fire-fighters were also given backing during the weekend, on the basis of a bilateral agreement, from three French Canadair aircraft (two have been in Portugal since 22 August and the third since the 29th), whose assignment has been prolonged until 3 September. Three Spanish Canadair aircraft deployed by Madrid on 29 August have already returned to Spain.

The EU solidarity mechanism was activated this summer to help fight forest fires in three countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Portugal. Croatia responded to two calls for assistance from Bosnia and Herzegovina, dispatching two fire-fighting aircraft, the first time for two days and the second for one day, with the EU paying transport costs in both cases. Croatia also responded to Portugal's request for assistance by making two aircraft available for three days. The EU also paid transport costs in this case. At the request of Bulgaria, the ERC was placed in pre-alert, monitoring the situation and the transmission of information in real time.

The ERC was inaugurated on 15 May. It forms part of the EU executive's humanitarian aid and civil protection service (ECHO), and replaces and improves the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) created - and operational for ten years - as the main operational tool of the Civil Protection Mechanism. The ERC aims to provide better coordinated, speedier and more efficient responses to natural or human caused disasters in Europe and beyond. Operational 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it monitors and analyses humanitarian and civil protection situations worldwide, permitting an immediate reaction if necessary. Any country affected by a major disaster, whether an EU member or not, can request assistance from the ERC, which acts in terms of the needs of the country in question. Apart from the 28 EU member states, four other countries participate in the Civil Protection Mechanism: the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Sep 13, 2013

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