European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides addresses the media at Elefsina's airbase, near Athens, Greece, on Sept. 12, 2019. Greece joined the new RescEU system with two fire-fighting aircraft to tackle natural disasters across Europe. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
ELEFSINA, Greece, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Greece joined with two fire-fighting aircraft the fleet of the new RescEU system to tackle natural disasters across Europe.
During a celebratory event held on Thursday at Elefsina's airbase, near Athens, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides announced that the European Commission will in parallel support Greece in repairing two water-dropping Canadair type aircraft by allocating 2.25 million euros (2.5 million U.S dollars).
"Today, here, we welcome Greece's active participation in the new system of the European Civil Protection RescEU. Today, from here, Elefsina, we send a loud message of solidarity to all Greek and other European citizens," Stylianides said, addressing the event.
In March 2019, the EU strengthened all components of its disaster risk management to better protect citizens from disasters. The upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism established RescEU, a new European reserve of capacities that initially included seven firefighting planes and six helicopters.
During the current transition phase, members can get funding in exchange for putting their firefighting means at the disposal of the EU. The aim is to establish a permanent bigger extra "safety net" at times of crisis, Stylianides noted.
RescEU's fleet is mobilized once a country requests assistance via the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Greece already submitted a request and received critical aid this August when Greek fire-fighters needed more means to battle a raging wildfire on Evia island near Athens.
Italian and Spanish water-dropping aircraft arrived in Greece and took part in the operations.
"They joined us, they operated with us, successfully and we witnessed the concept of European solidarity before our eyes with actions given to us with generosity. This is Europe. This is the Europe we want, Europe of solidarity," Greek Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said on his part, addressing Thursday's event.
"Greece will hold a leading role regarding cooperation for Civil Protection in Europe, will be a leader in efforts to further boost RescEU and save resources so that this entire bid is successful and provides significant assistance to us and other European countries to address more effectively natural disasters," the Greek official added.
"Europe can make a positive difference when we work together, European authorities and member states. In this manner we will be able to save lives, to protect properties and this is the key request of European citizens. They want EU to stand by their side when faced with natural disasters," the European commissioner stressed. (1 euro= 1.11 U.S. dollars)