According to Reuters, the European Union is in negotiations with manufacturers about purchasing firefighting aircraft to combat the increasing danger of major wildfires like those burning in Southern Europe.
The EU’s existing emergency resources include organizing and paying the deployment of 12 firefighting aircraft and a helicopter shared by EU members. However, since emergency demands are projected to rise as a result of climate change, the EU wants to invest in crisis-response aircraft, according to EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic.
“These planes will be technically bought by the member states but they will be 100 percent financed by the European Union,” Lenarcic said.
Lenarcic refused to identify the firms involved since contracts have yet to be signed, but said that plans are in the works to restart manufacture of amphibious aircraft that scoop up water to put out flames.
Thousands of firemen battled hundreds of wildfires throughout southern Europe on Monday, including in Portugal, Spain, and France, amid a severe heatwave that has killed hundreds.
As climate change worsens fire weather – heatwaves and dry conditions that allow flames to spread quicker and burn longer once started – more nations are asking emergency assistance to combat wildfires.
This year, the EU has already received five requests for assistance. With the Mediterranean still not halfway through its annual June-September fire season, Lenarcic predicts a disastrous summer for Europe. Last year, the EU received nine requests for aid.
This month, the EU sent firefighting planes to Portugal, France, and Slovenia, drawing on a pool of planes from Croatia, France, and Spain. In addition, 200 European firemen were stationed in Greece to assist local units.
EU nations are responsible for preventing and reacting to forest fires, and they only seek EU aid when they need it.
The bloc saw its second-worst forest fire season on record last year. Almost 500,000 hectares were burnt, compared to over a million hectares in 2017, the worst year on record. According to Spanish official figures, more than 70,000 hectares have burned in Spain alone this year, the most in a decade.
In 2021, the EU’s civil protection budget, which assists nations in investing in crisis prevention and response, was roughly 900 million euros.
“In the near future, it will have to be strengthened further,” Lenarcic added, citing an increase in requests for help with climate-related catastrophes, as well as other crises like as the COVID-19 epidemic and the Ukraine conflict.