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The fight against terrorism: preparedness and management of the consequences
In the event of a terrorist attack, the European Union (EU) must be prepared to respond and to manage the consequences. To that end, the Commission has put in place a number of mechanisms and instruments. This communication lists the existing tools and puts forward proposals relating to the preparation for and management of the consequences of all types of terrorist actions. The Commission will take action in the areas of civil protection and health protection. It will also create a network of alert systems to ensure a quick and effective response in the event of any attack or accident.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 20 October 2004 entitled "Preparedness and consequence management in the fight against terrorism" [COM (2004) 701 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication deals with preparedness and consequence management in the fight against terrorism, detailing Commission action in two areas: civil protection and health protection. The purpose is to introduce mechanisms and training facilities with a view to protecting and giving maximum assistance to civilians in the event of an attack, in particular bioterrorist attacks. The communication also describes the various existing rapid alert systems.
European cooperation on civil protection
At the European level, civil protection is based on a Community mechanism that was established in October 2001 and currently includes thirty countries (EU- 25, Bulgaria, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Romania). This mechanism includes a raft of measures and instruments which the Commission put in place in order to improve preparedness of the countries involved and to facilitate mutual assistance in the event of a disaster. The mechanism provides real-time support in various emergencies.
The Community civil protection mechanism includes a unit to provide assistance called the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC). The task of this unit is to receive requests for assistance from the countries hit by a disaster and to forward them to all the other countries. It can also provide technical aid by sending teams of experts. It collects and forwards information during the disaster. The MIC can provide assistance in several types of disasters such as fires, earthquakes, oil slicks, industrial disasters or terrorist attacks. In the past two years, the MIC has provided assistance for over ten different countries.
Within the civil protection framework, the Commission endeavours to improve the preparedness of the Member States to enable them to manage the consequences of a terrorist act. Here, it organised training and simulation exercises. One programme has already trained 200 national experts. A second programme began in September 2004. For example, it will include courses on the psychological aftercare of victims and on operations in a contaminated environment. Likewise, since 2002, the Commission has financed three simulation exercises modelled to reflect terrorist scenarios, in France, Denmark and Belgium. The aim of these exercises was to test existing procedures, to identify problems and to gain experience.
In order to improve preparedness, the Commission also evaluates the means and capabilities available in the event of an attack. Thus, it has prepared databases and scenarios. The databases store the information supplied by the Member States on their civil protection teams and experts. The scenarios compare assistance requirements with resources available at European level. On the basis of the information obtained, the Commission intends to draft a report which could be a unique policy tool for the European Union and the Member States.
The Commission emphasises that for the sake of the effectiveness of the Community civil protection mechanism, Member States must give it their full support. Following the solidarity declaration by the European Council on 25 March 2004, the Commission expressed its intention to further strengthen the Community civil protection mechanism along the lines set out below:
- stronger coordination and communication;
- the inter-operability of technical equipment, including civilian-military inter-operability;
- common insignia for the intervention teams to enhance the visibility of European solidarity;
- finding the means to finance transportation of equipment and teams in the event of a disaster.
In view of the fact that incidents or terrorist attacks involving explosives, chemical or biological agents could have disastrous consequences, the Commission has further strengthened its health protection policy. In November 2001 the Member States and the Commission adopted a cooperation programme including:
- risk evaluation;
- detection or exclusion of presence of biological, chemical or radioactive agents in packages, environmental compartments or humans, animals or plants;
- risk communication between health authorities, health professionals and the public;
- risk management (travel advisories, screenings and contact tracing, vaccination, administration of therapeutics and treatments, decontamination, casualty triage, interdiction of premises and movement, waste disposal).
The Health Security Committee that was set up in November 2001 is the platform of health security coordination in the EU. The Committee is linked to the Commission, the national authorities and all EU health alert systems by a rapid alert system which operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Its task is to:
- exchange information relating to health threats;
- coordinate health preparedness systems, emergency response plans and crisis management strategies;
- raise the alert and communicate rapidly in the event of a health-related incident of EU concern;
- provide advice on crisis management;
- organise and support training and the dissemination of good practice and experiences.
The Commission gives priority to the fight against bioterrorism on the basis of infectiveness, virulence, persistence in the environment, ease of manipulation and dissemination. The Commission's aim is to:
- identify high risk agents and place them under surveillance. Bacillus anthracis (for anthrax), Franciscella tularensis (for tularemia), Coxiella burnetii (for Q-fever) and Variola major (for smallpox) are high risk agents which the Commission has had under surveillance since June 2003. Moreover, there are seven laboratories in the EU that can handle tasks of surveillance and detection of high-risk biological agents;
- take action and cure. For that purpose, it intends to gather the necessary stocks of vaccines and medicines, to establish vaccination strategies and also improve knowledge of bioterrorist agents and corresponding diseases.
Health safety is also governed by a regulatory regime relating to storage, handling and moving of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents and materials. Regulations apply to laboratories, research institutes, universities, hospitals, etc.
As with civil protection, in the area of health safety, the Commission puts the emphasis on the EU's preparedness and response capability in the event of an attack. In order to be able to react effectively, the Commission's objective is to ensure that counter-measures by the Member States are compatible and interoperable. The Commission and the Member States are developing prediction models about the progress of disease and dispersal of CBRN agents under different scenarios. The Commission has also developed a training programme about epidemics of contagious diseases. Lastly, the setting up of a European Union Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will make it possible to implement surveillance and response actions in the area of health security.
At international level, the Commission cooperates with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the fight against bioterrorism. It also participates in the Ottawa health security initiative agreed by Mexican and G7 Ministers of Health.
Community rapid alert systems
In order to ensure a rapid and effective response by the EU to a wide range of emergencies, the Commission has put in place a number of rapid response systems (RAS). These systems are based on an information exchange network for receiving and triggering an alert as well as forwarding information. These systems include:
- MIC, Monitoring and Information Centre to facilitate and support mutual assistance between the participating countries
- the ECURIE system, in the event of a radiological emergency
- BICHAT, for biological and chemical attacks and threats
- RAPEX and RASFF, for consumer health
- EWRS, (communicable diseases)
- EUROPHYT, (phytosanitary network: interception of organisms harmful to plants)
- SHIFT, (health controls on imports of veterinary concern)
- ADNS, (animal health)
By 2005, the Commission proposes to add to the RAS systems:
- a European public order and security network. This European law enforcement network called LEN, will be managed by EUROPOL;
- a critical infrastructure warning information system called CIWIN.
The Commission also proposes consolidating and coordinating existing warning systems by creating a secure general rapid alert system (ARGUS) which will have a central crisis centre grouping representatives of all relevant Commission services during an emergency. The purpose of the centre would be to evaluate the best practicable options for action and to decide on the appropriate response measures.
This Commission communication is one of a series of four designed to step up the fight against terrorism in the EU. The first lays down the general measures to prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist acts, the other three deal more specifically with:
- the prevention and financing of terrorism ;
- management of consequences ;
- protection of critical infrastructures.