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Brussels, 20 April 2005

Post tsunami: the Commission reinforces its disaster response capacity

The Commission has today adopted proposals for a package of measures to reinforce the European Union’s disaster response capacity. The package will: fund new specialist planning teams to speed up the effective delivery of long term aid; reinforce the Union’s capacity to provide specialised civil expertise units and equipment; and strengthen the Union’s capacity to deliver humanitarian aid. The Communication adopted today also provides a detailed progress report of how the 450 million Euro pledged by the EU after the tsunami disaster is being spent. The proposals agreed today are the Commission’s contribution to the post-tsunami Action Plan proposed by the Luxembourg Presidency on 31st January.

“Against our background and success to respond immediately to the Tsunami disaster the Commission proposes now measures that will help us to respond swiftly and effectively to post crisis reconstruction in the future” said Commissioner for External Assistance and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who proposed the steps with Commissioners Michel, and Dimas.

Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner responsible for Civil Protection, said: “The response to the Tsunami demonstrated the clear added value that the European dimension brings to civil protection assistance. The proposals made today take the existing Mechanism one step further. Taken together they will result in an instrument that guarantees an effective European reaction to future disasters.”

The 3 essential elements of the proposals agreed today are:

1. New Assessment and Planning teams to strengthen the effective delivery of long term aid. New specially trained Assessment and Planning teams will be available for deployment in the early days of a crisis to start essential planning for the effective delivery of long term aid once the immediate humanitarian response is over. The teams will bring together geographical and sectoral experts from Commission and its 130 Delegations. They will be ready for mobilisation at short notice for missions of up to one month and will be able to draw upon external on-call experts. The teams will strengthen the EU’s role in assessing reconstruction needs, working with other international players such as the World Bank and the UN. They will begin the process of planning for rehabilitation and reconstruction as swiftly as possible, including the identification of projects that might require emergency funding.

2. Strengthening the civil protection mechanism: The Commission will strengthen the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, which mobilises and coordinates Member States’ assistance in terms of specialist teams and equipment. The immediate measures on civil protection include the setting up of national teams for European responses to major disasters and the improvement of EU-level training.

In the future, EU Member States will be asked to place certain key resources – human resources and equipment - on permanent standby for European civil protection interventions. A further proposal would allow the EU to hire civil protection equipment which the Member States are not in a position to supply (e.g. aircraft, forest fire fighting equipment).

3. Strengthening the delivery of humanitarian aid: The Commission is proposing new measures to strengthen its delivery of humanitarian aid, notably, the doubling of ECHO field experts up to 150. These are specialists in key relief and humanitarian sectors (such as health, water and sanitation, provision of food, shelter and housing). The experts, located in more than 30 ECHO field offices throughout the world, will be organised in multi-sector rapid response teams. Teams of these specialists can already be deployed within 24 hours to the site of any disaster. The proposals will also improve the interoperability of EU with the UN and Red Cross systems and build up stocks of emergency material.

The Commission has pledged EUR 450m overall in funding: EUR 103m has been committed for humanitarian aid and EUR 350m for rehabilitation and reconstruction has now been programmed. A separate budget for the civil protection part was proposed in the recent financial perspectives package.[1]

Today’s Communication is timed to contribute to discussions at the GAERC on 26 April.

Its proposals form part of an ongoing programme of improving crisis response by the Commission. These include the proposed Stability Instrument which will facilitate an integrated response to situations of crisis, severe political instability or violent conflict. COM(2004)630 of 29.9.2004.

For further information, see MEMO/05/135 and MEMO/05/136.

Indian Ocean Tsunami – The EU Response:

[1] It is currently EUR 7m annually, and an increase to EUR 30m by 2013 has been proposed

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