Subject: Community funding for areas devastated by the 2007 fires and rehabilitation plans

7 September 2009

WRITTEN QUESTION by Stavros Lambrinidis (S-D) , Maria Eleni Koppa (S-D) , Anni Podimata (S-D) , Georgios Stavrakakis (S-D) , Kriton Arsenis (S-D) , Chrysoula Paliadeli (S-D) , Giorgos Papakonstantinou (S-D) and Sylvana Rapti (S-D) to the Commission

Community funding for areas devastated by the 2007 fires and rehabilitation plans    

The second anniversary of the catastrophic fires of 2007, together with the recent fires in Attica, have put a spotlight on Greece's special forest protection needs which involve the implementation of Community policy.

Bearing in mind the special needs of the areas devastated by fires, the Commission had granted an extension of the final deadline for the eligibility of expenditure under Greek operational programmes in the third CSF (2000‑06), and had committed itself to using NSRF funds for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by fires. Bearing in mind the above, will the Commission say:
1.     Is it aware to what extent the abovementioned extension has contributed to the execution of projects in respect of the areas damaged by fires? Have new projects been included under, and funded by, the third CSF relating to the restoration of the damage inflicted in the summer of 2007? Does a list of such projects exist?
2.     Does it know whether the Greek authorities have drawn up plans to restore the areas of Ilia, Arkadia, Euboea and Attica damaged by fires? Have these plans been submitted to the Commission? Do any special rehabilitation plans exist for specially protected areas and sites of Community environmental interest (for example Kaifas Lake, the Chelmos-Vouraikos region, Achaia and other regions which burnt in 2007)?
3.     What measures has the Commission taken to implement Resolution P6_TA(2007)0362 on natural disasters adopted by the European Parliament on 4 September 2007, calling, inter alia, on the Commission to collaborate with national authorities to develop policies that minimise the environmental impact of fires; and also reforestation policies by gathering and publishing data relating to the natural resources of each Member State? How does it judge cooperation with the Greek authorities in providing such data with a view to the development of the policies in question?


16 October 2009


E-4236/2009 Answer given by Mr Samecki on behalf of the Commission

The Operational Programmes 2000‑06 affected by the fires occurred in summer 2007 have benefited a one-year extension of the eligibility deadline until 31 December 2009. The extension was granted in order to enable Greek administration to accomplish the ongoing projects and to include interventions addressing the consequences of the 2007 wildfires.

Upon Commission request, the Greek authorities have included some information on these actions in their 2008 annual implementation reports of the operational programmes concerned as well as they gave some information during meetings of the relevant Monitoring Committees. For example, the budget of actions in relation to the management of protected areas, such as Parnitha, Parnonas and Chelmos Vouraikos, was increased.

In application of the principle of subsidiarity, the implementation of Community assistance is the responsibility of the Member States, as stated in Article 8, paragraph 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1260/99 of 21 June 1999(1) laying down general provisions on the Structural Funds. Unless it is a major project according to Article 25 of this regulation, for which the Commission confirms the grant rate, a project is appraised and selected by the competent authorities of the Member State for co-funding by the Structural Funds in the framework of an Operational Programme.

The Managing Authorities of the programmes concerned have been invited to describe these co-funded interventions in the final reports, which shall be submitted by the Managing Authorities in 2010. The results of the interventions in this field will be evaluated following the closure of these Programmes.

The Commission Services are aware that the Greek authorities, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, worked out a ‘Special Frame of Reconstruction and Growth of regions that were affected by the devastating fires in summer of 2007 for all the affected areas’. The total commitments amount to EUR 2.5 billion. According to this information, a part of these interventions have been integrated in the framework of the revised operational programmes of the third Community support framework (CSF) 2000‑06 and in the operational programmes of national strategic reference framework (NSRF) 2007‑13 with national and community financing.

Under the current 2007‑13 Rural Development Programme for Greece, the contribution of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) earmarked for the restoration of forestry potential and introduction of prevention actions is EUR 136 million. Three types of actions are foreseen by the programme, of which two have been already activated by the Greek Authorities (‘Projects in mountainous areas for the protection against flood damage and erosion’ and ‘Reforestation and projects carried out in mountainous areas for the rehabilitation of areas damaged by fires’). The third action relating to ‘The improvement of prevention measures for the protection against fires of the forest and forest areas’ is expected to be activated in the near future. Reforestation of areas damaged by fires will be done by priority to Natura 2000 areas and areas with over 10 % slope.

Regarding the enhancement of cooperation in the response to forest fires, the Commission would like to draw the attention of the Honourable Member to the EU Forest Fire-fighting Tactical Reserve (EUFFTR). During the summer 2009, at several occasions, forest fires affected simultaneously several Member States and there was both a gap in capacities and a need to find an effective way of supplementing national capacities to fight the most difficult situations. The EUFFTR, which comprises two high capacity fire fighting aircraft available at the request of the Commission, played an important role assisting Member States affected by major forest fires. The EUFFTR was established in the framework of the 2008 Pilot Project on forest fires. The pilot project is a test for new arrangements in European civil protection.

Furthermore, the Commission considers that the Community needs to work on both response and prevention in a balanced manner. Therefore, the Commission adopted in February 2009 the communication on ‘A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man made disasters’(2). Its objective is to identify measures which could be included in a Community strategy for the prevention of natural and man made disasters.

(1)     OJ L 161, 26.6.1999.
(2)    COM(2009)82 final.