The EU is strengthening its civil protection capacities, to make sure timely support can be provided to member states and other countries participating in the mechanism whenever there is a natural or man-made disaster. Today EU ambassadors confirmed an agreement reached between the Council Presidency and the European Parliament representatives on the proposal to amend the EU civil protection mechanism.
Whether it is floods, fires or earthquakes, wherever there is a disaster, EU member states stand ready to assist. By strengthening our civil protection mechanism we make sure assistance can arrive more quickly to those who need it, even when multiple disasters strike simultaneously.
Herbert Kickl, Minister of the Interior of Austria
Strengthening response capacities
The existing rules on civil protection foresee a voluntary pool of national capacities to provide mutual support in and outside of Europe. In addition to strengthening existing capacities, the new rules will establish rescEU, additional capacities to be used when existing national capacities and the pool prove insufficient.
Through rescEU capacities the EU will be able to support member states by co-financing leasing or rental arrangements, or the acquisition of capacities which are otherwise lacking. rescEU capacities will be hosted by the member state acquiring, leasing or renting them, and will be available for response operations under the EU mechanism. Decisions on their deployment and demobilisation, and any decisions in cases of conflicting requests, will be taken by the Commission, in close cooperation with the member states involved.
Improving risk prevention
Prevention is vital in both reducing the risk of disasters and in lessening their impact. Under the new rules, member states will be required to further develop their risk assessments, the assessment of risk management capability and risk management planning. Every three years member states should make available to the Commission summaries of the relevant elements of their risk assessments and of the assessment of their risk management capability, focusing on key risks.
Additional prevention and preparedness measures are envisaged in the event that a member state frequently requests the same type of assistance for the same type of disaster.
The Commission, in cooperation with member states, will also be able to establish consultation mechanisms to improve the prevention, preparedness and coordination between member states which are prone to similar types of disasters.
The new rules also improve training and knowledge-sharing. The Commission will be tasked with establishing an EU civil protection knowledge network of those involved in civil protection and disaster management. This network will be responsible for carrying out various tasks in the area of training, exercises and knowledge dissemination.
Now that the agreement has been confirmed by EU ambassadors, on behalf of the Council, the decision will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and subsequently to the Council for adoption.
The EU civil protection mechanism was established in 2001. It has helped improve cooperation between the member states, and facilitates wider coordination in the area of civil protection. Any country in the world, as well as the United Nations and relevant international organisations may request assistance through this mechanism in the event of a disaster.
However, recent experience has shown that reliance on voluntary offers of mutual assistance coordinated and facilitated by the mechanism does not always ensure that the capacities made available in the event of a disaster are adequate. This is particularly the case where member states are simultaneously affected by recurrent disasters and collective capacity is insufficient.
The European Commission presented a proposal in November 2017 to address these shortcomings.