The ceremony was telelinked between Athens and Nicosia
The Cyprus Institute (CyI), the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA), and the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the aim of joining forces for tackling forest fires, and in particular concerning the formulation of integrated plans for the prevention and management of forest fires.
The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding took place at the National Observatory of Athens premises in Greece, on Friday 10, December 2021, and was signed by the Director and Chairman of the Board of NOA, Professor Manolis Plionis, the Vice-Rector for Research and Education of NKUA, Professor Nikolaos Voulgaris, and The Cyprus Institute’s President, Professor Costas N. Papanicolas.
The ceremony was addressed by the Minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Christos Stylianides, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, Dr Costas Kadis, the Deputy Minister of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy of Cyprus, Mr Kyriacos Kokkinos, and the Directorates General Secretariat for Research and Innovation of the Hellenic Republic, Prof. Athanasios Kyriazis. The event was also attended from Cyprus by the CyI Director of the Climate and Atmospheric Research Center (CARE-C), Prof. Jean Sciare, Research and Development Scientist of the Research Laboratory of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (USRL), Dr Christos Keleshis, the Director of the Cyprus Department of Forests, Mr Charalambos Alexandrou, and the Fire Brigadier of the Cyprus Fire Service, Mr Polyvios Hadjivassiliou.
In his welcoming address, Mr Stylianides reassured that the Greek Government fully supports this initiative and will financially support it, as much as possible and within European regulations. He also expressed his confidence for the success of this collaboration between Cyprus and Greece, and wished that in the future, both countries will make a step forward in terms of preparation, effectiveness and prevention of forest fires.
Dr Kadis highlighted that the Ministry of Agriculture of Cyprus as the competent Authority for the protection and management of the local forests through the Department of Forests, welcomes and encourages every effort and initiative that contributes to the promotion of research, to the utilization of scientific knowledge for the prevention of forest fires. He noted that his Ministry will be at the disposal of the three collaborating organizations, and will look forward with particular interest to the results that will emerge through this excellent cooperation.
Mr Kokkinos said that the effective prevention and immediate response to forest fires is one of the key areas in which every modern state is judged in its the ability to respond to the safeguarding and protection of the natural environment and the quality and safety of the life of its citizens. Therefore, the utilization of the applied scientific knowledge and innovation developed in academic and research institutes, can greatly contribute to the achievement of the stated goals.
Speaking at the ceremony, Prof. Kyriazis, mentioned that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding opens a new way to utilize the results of the three Institutions for the benefit of society.
The Director and Chairman of the Board of NOA, said that with the signing of the Memorandum, the pre-existing cooperation of the three bodies is expanded, while at the same time it shows the necessity of expansion at regional level for better coordination in the prevention of forest fires.
In his address, the Vice-Rector of NKUA, Prof. Voulgaris, stated that this cooperation will be beneficial for both countries, while at the same it strengthens the research and educational network of public institutions in Greece and Cyprus. Finally, Prof. Voulgaris thanked the CyI President for this initiative that created the momentum for signing the MoU.
Prof. Papanicolas noted that cooperation of the three institutions will further strengthen, and this agreement will become an advanced tool for dealing with forest fires, which can be applied in Cyprus and Greece as well as in other countries in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He also stressed that these services will be included in the proposed actions of the Cyprus Initiative to tackle Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
In particular, this ceremony formalizes many years of research and cooperation between the three top institutions, which follows a meeting on October 8, 2021 at the Rectorate of NKUA, where a Statement of Intent was signed by the Rector of NKUA, Prof. Thanos Dimopoulos, the Director and Chairman of the Board of NOA, Prof. Manolis Plionis, and The Cyprus Institute’s President, Prof. Costas N. Papanicolas.
The cooperation of the three Institutions was deemed necessary as the Climate Crisis affecting the Southeastern Mediterranean is causing an increase in the frequency but also the intensity of extreme weather events, resulting in the more frequent occurrence of catastrophic forest and suburban fires. The expected effects will be dramatic, with loss of life and property, degradation of the forest environment and biodiversity, reduction of quality of life and social cohesion and local and regional development lag.
Given these estimates, the collaboration between CyI, NKUA, and NOA is considered urgent and necessary as ever, and a milestone in the Management of Forest Fires in Greece and Cyprus, focusing in the following areas:
- Utilizing the know-how and experience acquired by the three institutions regarding the issue of forest fires.
- Developing a research cooperation framework that will lead to the formulation of an integrated action plan to incorporate, organize and utilize the existing knowledge of each institution for the effective response to forest fires at all stages (pre-catastrophic, catastrophic and post-catastrophic).
- To liaise with the competent Civil Protection authorities in order to provide them with this integrated action plan.
- To provide services to all Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries within the framework of National Initiatives, such as the Cyprus Government Initiative which addresses the Climate Crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. In this context, several countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East have expressed interest in participating in this important Agreement on combating forest fires.
You can watch the full ceremony and the press conference here