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Giving access to French-Spanish rescue services for interventions across the border

Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bonson is the head of the cross-border cooperation service of the Fire and Rescue Service (SDIS64) of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in France, the French public service for rescue. Carla Barail supports the service as a volunteer fire brigade expert in cross-border cooperation, as the territory on which they operate borders the Spanish Autonomous Communities of Aragon, Navarre and the Basque


Spain and France share a border that faces different types of risk: fire, road accidents, industrial and technological risks, etc. This is why French and Spanish fire-fighters need to cooperate in order to better respond to the risks on the border. However, and despite the existence of legal and administrative acts to optimise public assistance at the Franco-Spanish border, firemen and rescue services encounter difficulties in crossing the border to intervene”, Joseph and Carla explain.

To improve this situation, it appeared fundamental for SDIS64 to identify the relevant authorities on the two sides of the border and ultimately make the emergency service in the border region more efficient. To do so, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department Fire and Rescue Service - SDIS64 applied to b-solutions and benefited from the expertise of b-solutions expert Maria Garayo.

Through a comprehensive analysis of the obstacle, she suggested potential solutions in a report with the title “Legalise border crossings for French-Spanish rescue services”. The solutions imply legal and administrative changes such as a revision of the Bayonne treaty on cross-border cooperation, subsequent local agreements on day-to-day risk management among relevant local stakeholders and/or the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to support a roadmap of actions of cooperation on prevention, firefighting and rescue services.

“The report of the expert made the SDIS64 aware of the different legal issues it is facing”, say Carla and Joseph about their experience with b-solutions: “We could understand better how to proceed and apply the solutions in order to reduce or eliminate those obstacles”.

Through their experience with this initiative they saw other benefits they did not expect: “b-solutions opened our mind about the difficulties we had in the cooperation and it showed us a larger perspective of the real obstacles that were preventing us from moving forward with the collaboration”.

“Without the expert's support, we wouldn't have the current view of the obstacles and the potential solutions. It's a real added value (…) Our participation in b-solutions has been very enriching to understand better the different levels of authorities and competences in both countries in the fire-fighters field so we are now able to plan the actions we need to implement to achieve our goal”, they conclude.

To achieve their goal that is to say to involve the different competent authorities of both countries in order to reach an agreement on cross-border cooperation of French and Spanish fire-fighters, the SDIS64 can count on the additional support of b-solutions expert Maria Garayo.

“We are expecting a lot from this second phase, which is essential for us in order to begin drafting reference documents setting out the solutions envisaged for the obstacles identified. This work should enable us to make progress and eventually draft texts that are both regulatory and take into account the solutions to the obstacles identified”, they share.

We are committed to support the SDIS64 in the next steps of the implementation of the solutions and we will share any progress made in that direction.


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