I noticed that, when the forest fires were threatening Dubrovnik a week or so back (see 9 August news story opposite), the Croatian government was moaning that they had not received enough assistance from their neighbours. Hmm, I thought to myself, do they mean cross-border assistance? What a good idea!
Indeed, co-operation among emergency services is a particularly appropriate issue for cross-border actions. The mechanics of it are perhaps more complicated than first appears (e.g. drive a fire engine over the border, put out the fire, go home). There are issues related to insurance, accident protection, health coverage which cause potential problems (not to mention the minefields still in place along some borders).
The Council of Europe has been taking forward a regional agreement between the South-East Europe countries on mutual assistance in the event of disasters occurring in border areas which should create a solid framework for enabling this co-operation. However, as is often the case, only close long-term contacts, built up over a period of time, will enable organisations and people to work together effectively. For this, regular meetings, planning events, co-ordination seminars will need to be organised. Cross-border co-operation is occasionally criticised for being a talking shop - but how else do we learn from each other and share knowledge and ideas?
Sometimes, it's good to talk.