Sofia Hosts SEECP Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Preparedness and Prevention

Sofia Hosts SEECP Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Preparedness and Prevention

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev opened here on Wednesday the first Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Preparedness and Prevention of the countries participating in the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP), BTA is reporting.

Taking part in the meeting are disaster management policy ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia, Moldova and Montenegro, Regional Cooperation Council Secretary General Hido Biscevic, and Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe Special Coordinator Erhard Busek.

Addressing the participants in the forum, Stanishev noted the great practical importance of the interaction and exchange of information, prevention and timely warning on disaster preparedness.

"We all share the view that European and Atlantic integration is a guarantee of stability and prosperity, but not a single country can 'leap' into NATO or the EU without meaningful regional cooperation," the PM said. "I hope that the problem with Macedonia's name will be eliminated constructively, as soon as possible, so that Macedonia could receive a membership invitation as well. It is exceedingly important that the EU give Serbia a clear political and encouraging sign of a European and Atlantic perspective," Stanishev argued.

Greeting the participants in the meeting, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Disaster Management Policy Minister Emel Etem said that natural disasters and cataclysms are emerging as a major hazard in the region. The losses they inflict may lead to social and political crises, she observed.

In his statement Biscevic said the Ministerial Meeting comes just in time to maintain the momentum of the development of neighbourly relations in Southeastern Europe. He stressed that the Regional Council Secretariat in Sarajevo will be actively involved in the processes of state-to-state cooperation in mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

In his greetings address, Busek said that "we cannot wait for bureaucratic procedures when we face disasters." He noted that the countries must prepare their legal and institutional framework for cooperation in disaster management.

The participants in the meeting agreed that people are not well prepared for disaster response.
Bulgarian Civil Protection Director Andrei Ivanov noted the need of establishment and steady modernization of early warning systems.

The participants were unanimous about the idea of a database on the regional capacity, which will make it clear the capacity of each country to cope with disasters.

A joint statement was adopted at the end of the meeting. According to the statement, the disaster management national authorities in Southeastern Europe will be encouraged to strengthen their capacity for sustainable society and preparedness for natural and man-made disasters and to deepen their cooperation within the framework of the Memorandum of Cooperation on the Institutional Framework of Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Initiative for South Eastern Europe (DPPI SEE). The participants call for enhanced regional interaction and increased cooperation with the EU Community Civil Protection Mechanism and the European Commission's Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative.

The ministers and heads of delegation called on the Regional Cooperation Council to assist the DPPI SEE in drafting a Strategy and a two-year Action Plan and to address legal and administrative issues for the Initiative. The document invites the next SEECP chairmanship-in-office to organize a ministerial meeting on disaster preparedness and prevention in early 2009.

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