Slovenia to ask for EU Solidarity Fund aid over fire

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Ljubljana – Slovenia will seek aid from the EU Solidarity Fund over the series of wildfires that have ravaged the western region of Kras for almost two weeks, an official said after the cabinet session on Thursday.

The government today tasked the Ministry of Defence to draw up a damage assessment report. Once the report is ready, which State Secretary Damir Črnčec expects to happen by mid-September, the country will ask for EU aid.

Slovenia can ask for aid from the EU Solidarity Fund if the damage amounts to at least EUR 279 million in total, said Črnčec, adding that the aid would be used to repair infrastructure.

The country has so far asked for such aid four times, three times to repair damage caused by floods and once to deal with the aftermath of the 2014 ice storm. The aid ranged from EUR 7.5 million and 18 million, according to Črnčec.

The Ministry of Defence was also tasked to draw up by the end of August amendments to the protection against natural and other disasters act, which the government will submit to parliament to pass by fast-track procedure.

The amendments would tackle payments to firefighters and other volunteers deployed to fight the Kras fires. Aid would be available when the national action plan for major fires in the natural environment is activated.

Last week the government allocated an allowance for voluntary firefighters and other volunteers involved of EUR 63 a day for up to eight hours of deployment and EUR 94.50 a day for deployment over eight hours.

Rough estimate by the Forest Service is that three wildfires in the areas of Klariči, Kostanjevica na Krasu and Lokvice on the Slovenian side affected some 3,500 hectares, of which 2,700 hectares of forest.

The Ministry of Defence needs to draw up a final report on the firefighting operation by 15 September and, in cooperation with the relevant ministries and experts, propose measures to improve the capacity to observe, respond faster and extinguish fires in the natural environment.

Although the situation at the fire site has largely calmed down, firefighters are still on standby after a new fire broke out on the Italian side of the border and is yet to be contained. Slovenian firefighters are helping battle that fire.