Wildfires in France: Four aircraft of the EU fleet sent to France

Brussels (AFP) – Teams of firefighters from Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania are on their way to support their French colleagues under the EU’s civil protection mechanism, the Commission said. “The EU stands in full solidarity when a country is faced with an emergency situation,” European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic stressed in a statement.

“European solidarity is at work!”,

said French President Emmanuel Macron in a tweet announcing this European aid.

Greece will dispatch two Canadair and Sweden two Air Tractor firefighting planes “this very day”, said the French president. On the ground, Germany is sending 64 firefighters and 24 vehicles, expected by Thursday evening, he added. Polish reinforcements – 146 firefighters and 49 vehicles – will arrive on Friday around noon. The Commission also said the EU’s Copernicus satellite had been activated to gather essential data for first responders in the devastated areas.

Thousands of firefighters are battling new blazes in France in forests wholly dried out by heat waves and a historic lack of rain. As of Wednesday evening, eight major fires were raging in France, in Gironde (southwest), Maine-et-Loire (west), Jura (east), Drome, Aveyron, and Lozere (southeast), not to mention countless smaller fires breaking out every day throughout the country. (August 11)

Italy requests initiation of proceedings against Slovenia over balsamic vinegar rules

Ljubljana/Rome (STA) – The Italian government is expected to ask the European Commission to initiate infringement proceedings against Slovenia regarding the geographically protected designation of balsamic vinegar, media reports said. Italy opposes the draft Slovenian rules on the quality of vinegar and diluted acetic acid, which also apply to balsamic vinegar.

On December 2, 2020, Slovenia notified the EU of a draft regulation on the quality of vinegar and diluted acetic acid. This draft specifies that any mixture of vinegar with concentrated fruit juice must be labeled as balsamic vinegar.

In early March 2021, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry addressed a letter to the European Commission, in which it objected to the Slovenian draft rulebook, arguing that the Slovenian move threatens the tradition of excellence of balsamic vinegar from Modena and a market worth about a billion euros. Slovenia rejected the complaints, pointing out that the regulation does not, in any event, jeopardize balsamic vinegar from Modena, and that the same provision on balsamic vinegar was already part of the 2004 regulations.

The government of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi is now set to ask the commission to open infringement proceedings against Slovenia, the Modena Balsamic Vinegar Consortium said on Monday. Given that the European Commission has not issued any binding opinion on this, and based on an EU court decision from 2019 that ruled in favor of a German company selling its vinegar products under the label balsamic, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food is confident that the regulation in question is not contrary to EU law. (August 11)

Brussels leaves it up to member states to limit visas for Russian tourists

Brussels (Europa Press) – On Tuesday, the European Commission avoided commenting on a possible veto on tourist visas for Russian citizens, leaving it up to EU member states to limit visas for tourists arriving on European territory by land. This measure would serve to prevent the entry of Russian citizens into the EU through Finland, Estonia or Latvia. Flights from Russia are already restricted within the framework of the sanctions for the Russian invasion of Ukraine perpetrated under the orders of President Vladimir Putin in February of this year.

“We have always said that we are ready to consider further sanctions if needed, but we will not comment on future sanctions,” said European Commission spokesperson Arianna Podesta. Brussels was in contact with member states, which, she said, have a “wide margin of discretion” when issuing visas.

“It is important to know that member states have discretionary power in issuing long-term visas on the basis of their national legislation. The short-term visa code does not allow for processes to refuse visas, there are always categories of people for whom visas should be issued such as humanitarian cases, family members, journalists, dissidents …,” explained EU Home Affairs spokesperson Anitta Hipper. (August 9)

EU Commission approves Austria’s first tranche of 76 million euros for a just climate change

Vienna (APA) – According to its representation in Vienna, the EU Commission has approved Austria’s plan for a just climate change and the first financing tranche of 76 million euros on August 8. Austria will receive a total of 136 million euros from the Just Transition Fund (JTF). The goal is to prevent negative effects on the local economy and society during the transition to climate neutrality, it was said.

“The adoption of the Austrian plan for a just transition together with the first JTF tranche is good news for Austria.”

EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans

“The green economy is our future and the Just Transition Fund serves to support smooth and fair ecological change in the regions of Austria that face the biggest challenges on the road to climate neutrality,” continues Timmermans.

According to the EU Commission, the regions and municipalities that will undergo significant change are located in Upper Austria, Carinthia, Lower Austria and Styria. There are many carbon-intensive industries there, such as metal, paper, cement and chemicals. According to the Commission, the plan will create jobs and cushion job losses related to ecological change. This is done through investments in the development of new business models and sustainable green business, whereby companies are accompanied in their transition process.

The EU has set itself the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050. This means that no more new greenhouse gases should then be emitted into the atmosphere. Tens of thousands of jobs will be lost in coal regions and certain industries, but new jobs will also be created, including in the generation of renewable energies. In the period from 2021 to 2027, an amount of 17.5 billion euros is to be invested from the JTF in the regions most affected by the transition to a climate-neutral economy. (August 9)

Germany is sending 50 members of the Bundeswehr to EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo (HINA) – By the end of August, Germany will send a contingent of soldiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). It was confirmed on Monday by the EUFOR command in Sarajevo that the German soldiers will join the European Union’s peacekeeping forces in BiH and operate there as part of Operation Althea. In July, Germany’s federal parliament (Bundestag) had approved the plan of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to provide reinforcements for EUFOR, as political tensions are on the rise in BiH.

For the time being, 50 members of the Bundeswehr will be sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina and their deployment will begin in the middle of this month. German officers and soldiers will operate from the EUFOR headquarters headed by Austrian General Anton Wessely. They will also be part of the observation teams deployed throughout the country. Germany is sending its soldiers to BiH despite the opposition of the current Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik. After the Bundestag supported such a plan, Dodik stated that the aim was to “intimidate the citizens of Republika Srpska”. EUFOR, which replaced the NATO-led peacekeeping force (SFOR) in 2004, currently has around 1,100 soldiers from 19 countries in BiH, with a mandate to monitor compliance with the military provisions of the Dayton Agreement and to respond to security threats. (August 8)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.