Blog AnalysisInterviewCivil protection

Margot Wallstrom: “We must create a European civil protection force”

Three questions for Margot Wallström, Commissioner for the Environment.

You have just visited the victims of the oil spill and the storms in Brittany, what lesson do you draw from it?

We learned a lot. It is important to learn directly from the inhabitants, from the volunteers who, on the spot, acted to preserve the environment, what they felt, how they experienced this disaster, to understand their concerns or their anger. I felt a real concern for the future of fishing, for example, or tourism. Also, with my colleague Michel Barnier (Commissioner for Regional Policy), we wanted to demonstrate that the European Commission is not just an administration that acts in offices but people in the flesh, who have emotions , and can react.

Exactly, do you have any idea of ​​measures to take?

We have more than one idea. First of all, maritime security must be strengthened. Starting next month, in March, the European Commission will publish a communication which will identify all the measures to be taken. We intend to propose new rules on maritime traffic, reinforced standards for ships (double hull for example) and more effective controls... On the other hand, we are working to establish a general principle of environmental responsibility at European level. We must in fact guarantee that, throughout Europe, polluters are effectively recognized as responsible for the damage caused to the environment. Finally, we want to strengthen our civil protection resources.

But, in terms of civil protection, Europe does not really have competences?

It is true that civil protection is not an entire competence of the European Union. Thus the unit of the Commission on Civil Protection is very small and has few resources. We must evolve. We could create a European civil protection corps, bringing together the best experts and officials from each country, who can be mobilized more quickly and easily. It is also necessary to be able to have certain common resources. Europe could contribute, for example, as was suggested to us in Brittany, to setting up a mobile clinic to treat birds victims of ecological disasters. Member States still need to agree with this new logic. We are going to make a proposal to the Council of Ministers along these lines. Perhaps under the French presidency…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Interview published in France-Soir, February 2000 – the Erika ran aground on the Breton coast in December 1999

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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