The Greek authorities have announced that this year, a significant increase in aerial fire fighting equipment will be carried out. In doing so, this will happen, this will be done by paying off the old debt * to the NATO Purchasing Service (NSPA).
In total, the Fire Service will have 15 more aircraft and helicopters than in 2021 (93 vs. 78), which will not be leased directly by the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, but through a tender through a specialized NATO procurement service. Debt closure also saved Greece from the diplomatically embarrassing possibility of repaying the debt (in cash) to other NATO members, including Turkey, according to the Greek publication. cathimerini.
Until 2010, Greece leased (under annual or short-term contracts) aerial fire equipment for the fire season. Since 2011 – and given the many cases of corruption that have been identified – it has been decided that these leases, as well as the supply of spare parts and maintenance of the country’s aircraft, will be provided through the NATO service, NSPA (NATO Security and Procurement Agency), to to which members of the Alliance could apply for tenders for the supply of their armed forces or security forces. However, between 2011 and 2016, a €8.4 million debt had accumulated relating to dispute cases between the fire service and private contractors (who were awarded the provision of aviation fire equipment),
The debt was recognized by successive ministers of civil protection (which until last year included the responsibility of the fire service), but the issue was never resolved. As a result, the NSPA avoided issuing new tenders on behalf of the Hellenic Fire Service. He also warned the Greek authorities that, in accordance with its rules, the NSPA would transfer the country’s debt to other NATO member states so that they could repay it instead of Greece. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, which has now been given responsibility, has sent out new operational requirements for the fire department for 2022 as of November 26, but there has been little progress in the tender process.
“It was a matter of trust in the country,” said Minister of Civil Protection Chr. Stylianidis.
Finally, at the end of January, with an amendment (reached by cross-party consensus because the issue was known to the previous government), it was decided to pay off the debt, and Minister Christos Stylianidis went to the NSPA headquarters in Luxembourg to report it. “At the beginning, it was about trust in Greece,” he told K. “According to the NSPA regulations, the debt could be transferred to other members of the Alliance. Imagine that Turkey paid Greece 700,000 euros for firefighting equipment. In addition, new NSPA tenders were called into question on behalf of the country’s fire department. Bidding through the NSPA has many advantages: it avoids the possibility of political interference in the selection of suppliers through a transparent process under the auspices of NATO. At the same time, for the same reason, the cooperation of the fire service with reliable companies at a good price is ensured. Finally, since the contract is signed by the NSPA (after being approved by the Greek authorities), NATO Purchasing is responsible for ensuring that the terms of the contract are met.”
When the matter was unblocked (and even before the debt was paid), the NSPA issued a tender for 76 million euros on behalf of the Hellenic Fire Service. Applications closed today.
How will the fire department be reinforced with aviation this year?
The Hellenic Service has requested an NSPA tender for a reinforcement of twenty Air Tractor light aircraft (up from six last year) and eight Bell helicopters, which have an integrated fire tank and can also carry personnel (up from six last year). This year, the fire brigade will once again lease two heavy C-64 helicopters, an ATR 42-500 transport aircraft and the Russian Beriev amphibian (as it did last year).
These aircraft will add to the twenty helicopters (twelve medium and eight heavy) already leased by NSPA under a previous ongoing tender, as well as to the “permanent” fleet of aircraft and helicopters in the country. Thus, the total number of aerial fire extinguishing equipment this year will increase to 93 from 78 in 2021 (+15).
At the level of prevention, the Ministry of the Environment is making efforts this year to finance the necessary works (cleaning, forest roads, etc.) in a timely manner based on the studies of the forestry departments (after the bad experience of last year). In particular, according to the plan, 5.8 million euros will be allocated from the regular budget of the ministry for the work of the forestry seven days a week during the firefighting period. Another 5 million euros will be allocated from the public investment program for the clearing of forest roads, to which another 2 million euros (plus 1 million euros for Athos) will be added through the Green Fund for projects proposed by the forest services.
At the same time, a €50 million program financed by the Restoration Fund is being implemented to clear dry forests and train foresters and firefighters. The first invitations for forest clearing have already been sent out in the Piraeus Forestry area, Megara and the islands of the Attica region, Capandriti, Amaliada, Kefalonia and Ioannina, while numerous surveillance services are being deployed in Parnit, Penteli, Imittos and other areas.
According to sources RIS, 30 million euros will be allocated for the implementation of activities envisaged in studies already approved by the forestry authorities, and another 10-12 million euros for projects with design and construction in areas where no studies have previously been carried out. Finally, another 8.5 million euros will be allocated for fire research in the 40 most “dangerous” areas of Greece from a fire point of view.