GUE/NGL MEPs are pushing for important changes to the EU budget to reduce the loss of lives and better manage disasters such as forest fires.

Portuguese MEP, Marisa Matias, comments: “Portugal just experienced its most tragic forest fire ever. We cannot forget all the lives lost nor all the surviving victims.”

“Rescue efforts may have saved lives, but doing our best now means doing all that is possible to prevent such fires in future.

“Is the EU available to fund real prevention without adding it to the Portuguese deficit? Or will the EU punish the efforts to prevent future catastrophes? Is the EU going to be more flexible than in the past and act in solidarity by increasing the amounts of the EU Solidarity Fund?

“The European Parliament just approved an amendment put forward by GUE/NGL towards this aim. I hope it will not be killed off by at the Commission headquarters during the EU budget negotiations,” Matias cautioned.

Portuguese MEP, João Ferreira, elaborated further: “We are pleased to see that the budget report adopted this morning included our proposal to stengthen the solidarity funds in the wake of the terrible forest fires that affected Portugal and Spain.”

“This is something we have been requesting for a long time. We need to change the rules for implementing the fund and make them more flexible so that we can react immediately in the face of disasters like this.

“In the case of Portugal, we must also be able to help the victims. In 2010 there was a report on a European approach to tackling disasters, but now several years later most of the work still remains to be done.

“We need the right financial framework to be able to tackle this kind of disasters, and to implement a range of actions such as forestry management and addressing the depopulation of regional areas. It is time for the European Commission to really address and respect the recommendations included in this report.” 

Spanish MEP, Estefanía Torres Martínez, raised the need for action on climate and environmental issues to avoid future disasters: “Let's be clear: from now on, the fire and emergency services will always be overwhelmed. Therefore, we must focus not only on strict compliance with prevention plans – which are not currently being implemented – but also on adequate environmental management of the territory.”

“First of all, we need people to be able to live in rural areas in order to prevent these less densely populated areas from burning. Secondly, we need to fight the serious environmental problem of the monoculture of forest species such as eucalyptus that supply the paper industry that is drying the soil, eliminating biodiversity and acidifying the soil.”

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