news26 novembre 2009

Final Day of the European Civil Protection Forum

A two-day forum attended by Europe's civil protection services has wound up with a debate on "Governance in European Disaster Management". The meeting was attended by Civil Protection Department Chief Guido Bertolaso, who also addressed a news conference in the course of the morning in the company of Pia Bucella, the European Commission's Director of Legal Affairs and Civil Protection, Helena Lindberg, Director General of the Civil Contingencies Agency in Sweden, and Dick Schoof, Director General of the Netherlands Civil Protection service. The Italian Civil Protection Department also took part in another meeting in the course of the morning, entitled "Preparing Europe To Receive Assistance", with Agostino Miozzo, Director General of the International Relations and Voluntary Service Office.

Taking part in the round table were Guido Bertolaso, Helena Lindberg, Dick Schoof, Environment Directorate Director General Karl Falkenberg, and French Civil Protection Director Alain Perret. The debate focused on many of the issues previously raised at the news conference, in particular on the need to establish a coordinated system among Europe's civil protection services, the importance of rapid intervention, governance, the role of the public at large, and the importance of clear communication and information being delivered to the local populace.

A co-ordinated system. Guido Bertolaso stressed the need for the existing structures to work together, although he added that there was no need to set up any umbrella superstructure. It is important to share a network of experience, starting with the use of a common vocabulary, with its hub in Brussels and a response system properly defined well before an emergency occurs. In that connection, Helena Lindberg spoke of a holistic approach, of different areas of expertise at different levels integrating properly in order to achieve the goal of greater "resilience" in Europe.


"Resiliece", the central theme of the forum, is the ability to respond to situations promptly and flexibly, rapidly restoring the system to a state of balance. New technologies are going to prove crucial in pooling experiences in the various countries, and research must be the tool towards which we should aim in order to improve civil protection services' ability both to forecast and to intervene.
Another crucial issue on which Guido Bertolaso focused is the importance of ensuring that civil protection services depend directly on the government, as is the case in Italy, rather than on the interior ministry, as happens in many other European countries. Only thus can the service avoid confining its intervention to the emergency phase and focus also on prevention, forecasting and post-emergency rehabilitation; and only thus can it coordinate the various players involved at every level.

Governance. A large part of the debate was devoted to governance and communication with the public at large, with information for children and education in schools heading the list. Communication in an emergency is of crucial importance, thus information reaching people has to be credible and hence clear, concise and factual, Bertolaso stressed.

Goals for the future. The final round focused on those areas in which the civil protection services plan to work together: the definition of risks and threats for the future; learning from research rather than simply from experience; the supply of, and demand for, assistance; and the establishment of mechanisms designed to allow rapid intervention.