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Brussels, 24 November 2009
Questions and Answers on the Community Civil Protection Mechanism
What is the Community Civil Protection Mechanism?
The Community Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to support the mobilisation of emergency assistance in the event of major disasters.
EU and neighbouring countries are periodically affected by natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, floods, forest fires and terrorist attacks. The primary responsibility for dealing with the immediate effects of a disaster lies with the country where it has occurred. Nevertheless, when the scale of the emergency overwhelms national response capabilities, a disaster-stricken country can benefit from civil protection means or teams in other EU countries. This also applies to countries outside the EU –any country in the world can call on the Community Civil Protection Mechanism for assistance.
By pooling the civil protection capabilities of the participating states, the Mechanism can ensure better protection, primarily of people, but also of the natural and cultural environment, and property.
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Which countries participate in the Community Mechanism?
The 31 countries participating in the Community Civil Protection Mechanism are: all 27 Member States of the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Croatia.
There are good reasons for EU-level cooperation in the field of civil protection. By pooling the resources of different Member States, it is possible to provide a common response that is more effective than any Member State can deliver on its own. A well coordinated response saves the duplication of efforts and ensures that what is sent meets the real needs of the affected region.
The international role played by European countries in the provision of civil protection assistance is growing. This can be seen in recent disasters, such as the South Asia tsunami in 2004, the hurricane in the United States and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, the Indonesia earthquake and the crisis in Lebanon in 2006, and the forest fires in Greece in 2007.
Over time, the EU institutions and EU Member States have come to rely more and more on cooperation in the provision of civil protection assistance in order to be as effective as possible at the site of a disaster. There is clear added value in working together. Cooperation allows the pooling of resources, thereby maximising the combined European effort on site.
The management of natural and man-made disasters is a clear example of the value of action at EU level, where the responsibility of the national authorities of the affected country for dealing directly with disasters remains unchallenged but is facilitated and assisted by a concerted collective effort.
The Community Civil Protection Mechanism has a number of tools at its disposal to facilitate both adequate preparedness and effective response to disasters at EU level. The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) , plus the training and simulation exercises conducted within the framework of the Mechanism are some of the main tools available.
The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) is the operational "heart" of the Mechanism. It is run by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment, based in Brussels, and is accessible 24 hours a day. It gives countries access to a "one-stop-shop" of civil protection resources that are available in the participating states. Any country within or outside the Union that is affected by a major disaster can appeal for assistance via the MIC. It acts as a communication hub at headquarters level between participating states, the affected country and the experts who are dispatched to the field. It also provides useful and updated information on the actual status of an ongoing emergency. Last but not least, the MIC performs a coordinating role by matching the offers of assistance from participating states to the needs of the disaster-stricken country.
A training programme has also been set up to improve the coordination of civil protection assistance missions by ensuring that intervention teams from the participating states provide assistance that is compatible and complementary. It also enhances the skills of experts involved in civil protection assistance operations through the sharing of best practices. This programme involves training courses, the organisation of joint exercises and a system for the exchange of experts from participating states .
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What role do experts play?
When required, the MIC also deploys civil protection experts who have been seconded by participating states, mainly to operations outside the European Union. These experts have been trained by their national authorities and have also received training from the European Commission. Their tasks are set out in a brief that is specific to each new emergency. Generally speaking, however, their main role is to act as a link or liaison between the civil protection assistance from the participating states, the MIC and the recipient country. They are, in effect, the MIC's "eyes and ears" in the field. In certain situations, the MIC also deploys specialised experts. In 2006, for example, this involved sending volcanologists to Indonesia when the Merapi volcano erupted and dispatching bioremediation experts to an oil spill in the Philippines.
Who pays for the assistance?
According to the implementing rules of the Mechanism, the state requesting assistance shall bear the costs of assistance provided by the participating states.
However, the participating state providing assistance may, bearing in mind the particular nature of the emergency and the extent of any damage, offer its assistance entirely or partially free of charge. In practice, the majority of participating states offer assistance free of charge as a gesture of solidarity.
Since 2007, up to 50% of the costs of transporting assistance can be co-financed by the European Commission under the Civil Protection Financial Instrument.
What is the European Union doing on disaster prevention?
Several measures were taken at EU-level in response to the devastating forest fires in Europe in 2007. The forest fire monitoring system EFFIS was upgraded to include satellite tracking of ongoing fires and a six-day forecast. With additional funding from the EU budget, the European Commission carried out a pilot project to make two planes available this summer to help with forest fire fighting and put in place measures to reinforce the EU rapid response capacity. This involves testing innovative arrangements to ensure that key resources and essential equipment are made available during essential periods. In addition, the European Commission is taking a long-term approach to prevention and published a Communication on a Community approach to the prevention of natural and man-made disasters earlier this year.
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What is the budget for civil protection?
For 2010, the civil protection budget is €26 million. This covers, among other things, training, exercises, modules, and co-financing of transport of assistance. Outside the normal budget, €7.5 million will be available to continue the Preparatory Action on an EU Rapid Response capacity.
Training: €5 million
Exercises: €2 million
Modules: €2 million
Preparedness projects: €1.35 million
Prevention projects: €1.7 million
Transport inside EU: €1.83 million
Transport outside EU: €6.66 million
Early Warning Systems: €1.13 million
+ smaller actions
Where can I find more information?
Other EU initiatives
Civil protection is just part of the work done carried out by the European Union in relation to disasters. If the emergency occurs outside the European Union, the EU may also be providing humanitarian aid and/or development aid in the affected country.