Belgrade, June 25th - All regions in Serbia should be adequately equipped to fight against forest fires and preserve human lives, property and forest ecosystems. In order to achieve this, Mateja Norčič Štamcar, Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, and Francine Pickup, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Serbia, delivered today 27 fire extinguishing vehicles to Milosav Miličković, State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia.

The total value of these vehicles stands at over 1 million EUR, and they will be given to the departments and divisions of the Sector for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Interior of Serbia in Subotica, Zrenjanin, Kikinda, Pančevo, Sombor, Novi Sad, Sremska Mitrovica, Šabac, Valjevo, Smederevo, Požarevac, Kragujevac, Jagodina, Bor, Zaječar, Užice, Čačak, Kraljevo, Kruševac, Niš, Prokuplje, Pirot, Leskovac, Vranje, Novi Pazar, Prijepolje and Belgrade. Thanks to these vehicles, around 3300 members of the fire and rescue services from all over Serbia will be safer and more efficient when extinguishing forest fires.

The ceremony of delivering the vehicles was also attended by Jadranka Joksimović, Minister of European Integrations of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and Sandra Nedeljković, Acting Deputy Director of the Public Investment Management Office.

“I’m very happy that the Ministry of Interior now has 27 state-of-the-art vehicles to extinguish forest fires the very moment they occur, even in remote and inaccessible areas in all of Serbia. The EU is there for the people of Serbia, to support them in any hardships that may happen,” said Mateja Norčič Štamcar, Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Serbia.

Milosav Miličković, State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, said that this project, which started in 2019, was successfully finalized thanks to good organization and teamwork. “What remains to be done is to upgrade the premises of the Sector for Emergency Situations, with works worth 2.6 million EUR,” he added, stressing that Serbia so far hasn’t had modern vehicles of this kind, and that he hopes that the collaboration of all partners will continue in the future, in everyone’s best interest, and especially the people of Serbia.

According to Francine Pickup, Resident Representative of UNDP in Serbia, to preserve human health and our planet, and maintain the economic growth, we must protect the forests, both globally and in Serbia. “Extreme weather events that can cause forest fires, such as heat waves and drought, are becoming more frequent due to climate change. According to data of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, out of all the forests that were destroyed in Serbia since 2002, 40% perished in forest fires,” said Pickup.

Jadranka Joksimović, Minister of European Integrations, said that the Government of Serbia, in collaboration with the EU Delegation, allocated more than 14 million EUR from the IPA 2019 funds for improving emergency management and the civil protection system. “Looking at disaster risks, together with the European Union, we’re implementing this project with the aim to improve the safety of the people of Serbia, and protect material, cultural and natural goods from this kind of risks and challenges. By donating these 27 vehicles, we’ll enable the fire and rescue services to better control forest fires and fires in open areas, even when they happen in remote and inaccessible terrains. The vehicles will be equally distributed across Serbian regions, and in case of severe fires, it will be possible to quickly deploy several vehicles from neighboring regions, which will benefit all citizens of Serbia.”

Sandra Nedeljković, Acting Deputy Director of the Public Investment Management Office, said that firefighters are people who have a strong urge to save lives and help people. “The Office is closely collaborating with the Sector for Emergency Situations since 2014 and the disastrous floods. We know very well how much effort it takes to do this work, and how much monetary damage every disaster causes in our country. Therefore, we’re jointly placing the emphasis on prevention. EU was the biggest donor to Serbia during the recovery phase after the floods in 2014, but it is also helping us boost our resilience during the peaceful times, so that we can be prepared for new disasters. We are honored to take part in the activities that aim to improve the everyday safety of our citizens.”

The donated vehicles can move much faster than the standard fire trucks, and they are able to efficiently localize fires even in inaccessible terrains. This is crucial for a prompt response, immediately after a fire starts, and it will help protect the people who live in remote areas.

To reduce their environmental impact and fuel consumption, the vehicles are equipped with low-emission engines (EURO 6 standard).

Forests cover almost 30% of the territory of the Republic of Serbia. The growth of average temperatures due to global warming increases the probability of fires, which is a major risk in forested areas. On the other hand, forests play an important role in curbing climate change, because they annually absorb one third of global emissions of CO2 generated by fossil fuel combustion. This is why preserving the forest ecosystems is pivotal for the protection of our planet and the quality life of future generations.

The fire extinguishing vehicles were delivered as part of the project EU for Serbia Resilient to Disasters, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP. The goal of this project is to contribute to reducing Serbia’s vulnerability to crises and disasters, by providing support to institutions and organizations at the national and local levels, so that they can improve prevention measures and raise their response preparedness. 

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