The Joint Research Centre of the Commission presented the 20th edition of its Annual Report on Forest Fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, covering 2019. In what was the worst-ever year for forest fires around the world in recent history, over 400,000 hectares (ha) of Europe’s natural land was burnt and a record high number of nature protection areas were affected by wildfires. According to the findings of the report, climate change continued to affect the length and intensity of fire danger in Europe. By March, before the ‘fire season’ in most countries, the EU’s total burnt area was already above the annual average of the last 12 years. However, thanks to better preparedness and more efficient response, the 2019 season was one of the best ever in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life.
Key findings of the report
- National reporting from countries showed that Spain, Portugal and Poland recorded the highest number of fires in EU countries in 2019;
- Romania (73 444 ha burnt area) was the country with the greatest damage to its protected areas in 2019, according to the European Forest Fires Information System (EFFIS);
- Wildfires heavily affected Europe’s ‘Natura 2000‘ protected areas: With 159,585 ha burnt in 2019, nearly half of the total burnt area in the EU occurred within these key biodiversity zones;
- The 2019 season was, however, one of the best in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life: Only three casualties occurred due to wildfires in the countries included in the 2019 report.
The Copernicus Emergency Management Service rapid mapping was activated 35 times to help fight forest fires in 2019, the most activations of any year so far.
The Biodiversity strategy proposed in May as part of the European Green Deal foresees actions to improve the health of European forests and strengthen our resilience to forest fires, and includes the target of planting at least 3 billion trees by 2030.
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, Mariya Gabriel, said: “For over twenty years the Joint Research Centre has worked with countries across Europe to provide the most up-to-date trends on forest fires, helping prevention efforts and lessening their devastating impacts when fires do occur. Changing weather associated with climate change is increasing the risk of forest fires around the world. Knowledge and scientific evidence are central to taking the most effective measures to prevent these fires, safeguard our forests, preserve biodiversity and protect lives.”
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “Europeans have seen horrifying pictures of forest fires on the West coast of the US, Siberia, Australia and the Amazon region. But the fires have also hit hard the forests in Europe. Part of the answer to ensure this does not happen at such a harmful scale lies in protecting and managing our forests in a way to reduce their vulnerability to fires, allowing nature to also protect itself.”
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “Data and insights on forest fire risks and outbreaks are essential. They help us in prevention and preparedness, but also in responding more quickly and effectively when disastrous wildfires strike. With rescEU and our reinforced EU Civil Protection Mechanism we stand ready to assist, across Europe and beyond.”
The Commission’s Joint Research Centre provides a key contribution to wildfire disaster risk reduction in Europe and globally, through the development and operation of EFFIS and the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS).
The Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa reports are a unique source of information for fire managers and policymakers in European and neighbouring countries. They provide official statistics of wildfire impacts, reported annually by the fire administrations in these countries.
The gender dimension must be included in the COVID-19 recovery plans
MEPs, national MEPs and high-level guests discussed women’s crucial role in leading the fight against the pandemic, in an interparliamentary meeting on Thursday.
At the opening of a meeting hosted by Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Chair Evelyn Regner (S&D, AT) on the occasion of International Women’s Day (IWD), EP President David Sassoli said: ‘‘The pandemic has not only increased inequalities that already existed, it is also likely to wipe out decades of achievements. Measures adopted to contain the spread of the virus have often exacerbated the gender divide. To make sure women’s lives take a step forward, not backwards, we have to achieve genuine equality. It is time to end the rhetoric and to forge ahead.’’ He added that the EP will carefully monitor that the gender dimension is included in national recovery plans.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen dedicated this International Women’s Day to women on the frontline, to health workers, sales assistants who kept supermarkets open, mothers who took care of their children while working from home, and those who lost their jobs. ‘‘We are working on putting women at the centre of all our policies”, she added. “Today, we propose a Directive on pay transparency: women must know if their employers treat them fairly, and if not, they must be able to fight back and get what they deserve. Later this year, we will propose new legislation to fight violence against women online and offline.’’
Greece’s first female President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, focused on the impact that this pandemic has had on different vulnerable groups of women: single mothers, migrants, elderly women and women victims of domestic violence under lockdown. She also highlighted that 86% of those who work in the care sector in the EU were women, often poorly paid. ‘‘We have to adopt policies that take into consideration the different experiences and needs of men and women’’, she concluded.
Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee Chair Evelyn Regner said: ‘‘It is strikingly clear that we need gender equality and we need strong women, without which the economic and social recovery would remain incomplete. It is our duty and responsibility to make sure the differing yet interlinked needs of people of all genders are taken into account and catered for in the COVID-19 response to build a more resilient, more equal, more just society.’’
The discussion panel on ‘‘Women on the frontline: lessons learnt from the crisis management’’ gave the floor to women leaders in the political, economic and health sectors, such as Kharija Arib, President of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, Dr Isabelle Loeb, Medical Director at St Pierre Hospital in Brussels and Kristel Krustuuk, Founder of Testlio, to share their experiences on the ground. EP Vice-President Dimitrios Papadimoulis concluded the panel, which was followed by a debate with MEPs and members of national parliaments, with closing remarks from Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and Evelyn Regner.
IWD celebration in plenary
President Sassoli and Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern (the latter via a pre-recorded video message) will address MEPs during a Women’s Day celebration on Monday 8 March at 17:00. That same day at 11.00, Women’s Rights Committee Chair Evelyn Regner will be live on Facebook to answer citizens’ questions about the current state of gender equality in the EU. At 12.00, she will have a live Instagram exchange with Polish influencer Anja Rubik.
Europe Future Neighbourhood – Disruptions, Recalibration, Continuity
On 8 March 2021 International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES organizes together with partners in Vienna international conference entitled Europe Future Neighbourhood – Disruptions, Recalibration, Continuity. Co-organizers of the event are IFIMES along with Modern Diplomacy (the EU-based news platform, www.moderndiplomacy.eu), European Perspectives (the international scientific journal, www.europeanperspectives.org), Vienna School of International Studies (the oldest diplomatic school in the world, www.da-vienna.ac.at) and Culture for Peace (the Vienna-based platform for arts, culture and applied science, www.upf-cultureforpeace.org).
Europe Future Neighbourhood –
Disruptions, Recalibration, Continuity
FestSaal, Diplomatic Academy Vienna, Favoritenstraße 15a, 1040 Vienna.
Monday, 8 March 2021 from 10.00 to 18.00 h
Information about the detailed program and registration:
E-mail: Euro-med[at]ifimes.org, Vienna[at]ifimes.org
On behalf of the organizers, the conference will be opened by Dr. Emil Brix, director of the Vienna School of International Studies(DAW) and Dr. Ernest Petrič, former President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia and Vice-President of the IFIMES Advisory Board.
The participants will be addressed by Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (tbc), George W. Vella, President of the Republic of Malta and Ilir Meta, President of the Republic of Albania (OSCE 2020 Chairmanship country).
First panel is entitled“Revisiting and Rethinking Euro-Med: Fostering dialogue and a cooperative approach to addressing common challenges”. Moderator of this panel is Lamberto Zannier, OSCE Sec-General (2011-2017), director of Euro-Mediterranean Diplomacy and Intercultural Affairs at IFIMES. The panellists are:
– Pascal Allizard, Senator, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President, Special Rapporteur for Mediterranean issues
– Gustavo Pallares, Deputy Secretary General OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
– Monika Wohlfeld, German Chair for Peace Studies and Conflict Prevention, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies
– Ali Goutali, OIC Jeddah, Director
– Ettore Greco, Executive Vice President of the IAI, Head of the Multilateralism and Global Governance programme
– Emiliano Alessandri, Senior External Co-operation Officer, OSCE
Second Panel is entitled “Rule of Law, Health to Education, Social compact, Business continuity in times of C-19 & Europe’s reindustrialisation; Cross-generational and Economic greening; Transit and energy security;”. Moderator of this panel is Lejla Mazlic, Al Jazeera. The panellists are:
– Florian Iwinjak, UNIDO, Strategic Relations and Resource Mobilisation
– Carlos López-Veraza Perez, Public Prosecutor, Spain
– UNCTAD designate – II Dimension, tba
– ILO designate – EYS Dimension, tba
– Kamila Zarychta Romanowska, Parliamentary Litigator, EU/Poland
– Maria Smotrytska, Ukrainian Association of Sinologists, Shanghai/Kyiv
Third Panel is entitled “Brexit and Future of cross-Atlantic relations: Decoupling or Recalibration?”. Moderator of this panel is Katrin Harvey, Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, Vienna/Seoul. The panellists are:
– Eva Kaili, MEP Industry, Research and Energy (AI in a Digital Age), EU/Brussels
– Katarzyna Zysk, Deputy Director, Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies
– Scott Younger, Intl Chancellor President University, UK/Scotland
– Elizabeth Deheza, Head, Latin America Strategic Intelligence, London
– Matthias E. Leitner, University of Bonn, Germany
– Sinisa Ljepojevic, Tanjug correspondent London/Washington (aD)
– Heather Katharine McRobie, Oxford & Bifröst University, UK/AUS/IS
The conference will end with the music programme entitled “From Culture for Peace to Culture of Peace” by Reine Hirano, MSa (cello), Tokyo, Japan, performing Tchaikovsky, Bach and Saint-Saëns live at DAW premises.
International Institute IFIMES and its co-organizers have been joined by numerous universities from Europe, Asia, Africa and America, while the media partners are four renowned European diplomatic magazines and partners from Asia.
The international conference in part of four-tier 2020-21 International Conference of the Vienna Process – Vienna (July 2020 & March 2021), Geneva (May 2021) and Barcelona (September 2021).
Vienna July 2020 – Vienna Process I after movie is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJHxZFaWfgM
EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force
On 1 March 2021, the European Union-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will enter into force. It has now been ratified by the Republic of Armenia, all EU Member States and the European Parliament. This represents an important milestone for EU-Armenia relations.
This Agreement provides a framework for the EU and Armenia to work together in a wide range of areas: strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights; creating more jobs and business opportunities, improving legislation, public safety, a cleaner environment, as well as better education and opportunities for research. This bilateral agenda also contributes to overall aim of the EU to deepen and strengthen its relations with the countries of its Eastern neighbourhood through the Eastern Partnership framework.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said: “The entry into force of our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement comes at a moment when Armenia faces significant challenges. It sends a strong signal that the EU and Armenia are committed to democratic principles and the rule of law, as well as to a wider reform agenda. Across political, economic, trade, and other sectoral areas, our Agreement aims to bring positive change to people’s lives, to overcome challenges to Armenia’s reforms agenda.”
Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, underlined that: “While these are trying times for Armenia, the European Union continues to stand by the Armenian people. The entry into force of the bilateral EU-Armenia agreement on 1 March will allow us to strengthen our work on the economy, connectivity, digitalisation and the green transformation as priority areas. These will have concrete benefits for the people and are key for socio-economic recovery and the longer-term resilience of the country. In the current turbulent days, maintaining calm and respect for democracy and constitutional order are key.”
The Agreement was signed in November 2017 and substantial parts of have been provisionally applied since 1 June 2018. Since then, the breadth and depth of the bilateral cooperation between Armenia and the European Union have advanced steadily. At the 3rd EU-Armenia Partnership Council held on 17 December 2020, the European Union and Armenia reiterated their full commitment to implementing the CEPA.
The Agreement plays an important role for the modernisation of Armenia, in particular through legislative approximation to EU norms in many sectors. This includes reforms in the rule of law and respect of human rights, particularly an independent, efficient and accountable justice system, as well as reforms aimed at enhancing the responsiveness and effectiveness of public institutions and at favouring the conditions for sustainable and inclusive development.
From the entry into force of the Agreement on 1 March, cooperation will be strengthened in those areas which to date were not subject to the provisional application of the Agreement. The European Union stands ready and looks forward to working even more closely with Armenia on the full and effective implementation of the Agreement, in our mutual interest and to the benefit of our societies and citizens.
The gender dimension must be included in the COVID-19 recovery plans
MEPs, national MEPs and high-level guests discussed women’s crucial role in leading the fight against the pandemic, in an interparliamentary...
New US Administration Approach to Syria: How Different Could It Be?
With the new US administration in the White House, there are rather lofty expectations about a change in the American...
Mental health alert for 332 million children linked to COVID-19 lockdown policies
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says the mental health of millions of children worldwide has been put at risk, with at least...
South Sudan’s transition from conflict to recovery ‘inching forward’
South Sudan’s transformation from conflict to recovery is underway, but much needs to be done before securing “a peaceful and...
Washington Ill-Prepared to Set Human Rights Agenda
It is evident that US Democratic President Joe Biden and his team will pay more attention to the human rights...
The global plastic problem
Global plastic pollution is becoming increasingly severe. According to a report by the German weekly magazine ‘Focus‘, plastic particles have...
Innovation and market reform needed to drive Japan’s clean energy transition
Japan will need to move quickly to make headway on the steep emissions reductions that are required to achieve its...
Terrorism3 days ago
Despite acknowledging strict measures, Pakistan has to stay on the grey-list in FATF
Defense2 days ago
India – The US Promote National Defense – Security Cooperation
EU Politics3 days ago
EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force
Defense3 days ago
India-Pakistan LOC peace
Americas1 day ago
Joe Biden and his first contradictory foreign policy moves
International Law2 days ago
Why states undermined their sovereignty by signing NPT?
Americas2 days ago
Biden’s Syria strikes don’t make him a centrist Democrat – they make him a neocon
Americas2 days ago
Charting an American Return to Reason: Nuclear Policy Goals on North Korea