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Brussels, 20 December 2011

Moving closer to more effective disaster management in Europe

On 20 December 2011 the European Commission proposed to revise the European Union's Civil Protection laws in order to ensure more effective, efficient and coherent disaster management and to shift from the current ad-hoc co-ordination to a pre-planned and predictable system.

Why do we need new legislation on civil protection?

The European Commission has received political support from Member States and the European Parliament for its 2010 policy proposal paper - "Towards a stronger European disaster response: the role of civil protection and humanitarian assistance". In it, the Commission outlined its vision for a faster and more efficient EU response to disasters. The 2009 Communication on the EU approach to the prevention of natural and man-made disasters was also strongly supported by the Council and the Parliament. Today's proposal for a revision of EU Civil Protection legislation builds on those ideas and aims to turn them into reality.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism, established in 2001, has lived up to its initial role of the co-ordination and facilitation of civil protection aid offers from Member States. There is however significant scope for further development, especially in terms of shifting from ad-hoc coordination to a predictable system that can guarantee a well- planned and immediate emergency response and closer integration of prevention measures which address more fully the complete disaster management cycle.

The Treaty of Lisbon set out that “the Union shall encourage co-operation between Member States in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing and protecting against natural or man-made disasters.” The Commission's proposal sets out measures necessary in helping to achieve these objectives.

Does the proposal address only disaster response?

No. The Commission is in favour of a balanced approach to disaster management. Prevention and preparedness are covered by the revised legislation.

Prevention actions are equally integrated in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The Commission proposes, for example, co-operation with Member States to develop an EU-wide overview of natural and man-made risks. A common understanding of the risks fosters the sharing of knowledge and experience across Europe and allows for better co-ordinated response, preparedness and prevention actions. Member States will also be expected to develop risk management plans by the end of 2016.

What is the key idea behind improving the disaster response?

To shift from the current ad hoc co-ordination to a system which is pre-planned, pre-arranged and predictable. When national capacities are overwhelmed a predictable and reliable system at European level saves lives and is significantly more cost-effective. This will be achieved by creating a voluntary pool of Member States' assets (teams, equipment) available for immediate deployment as part of a joint European intervention. Member States will be asked to voluntarily place core resources on call which will be ready to participate in a joint European response when the need arises.

How will the voluntary capacity be triggered? Will the Commission push the button to deploy Member States' assets?

Member States will remain responsible for their assets while the Commission's role will be to facilitate and co-ordinate deployment on the ground. For each emergency, the Emergency Response Centre (ERC) will put together an immediate response plan, matching the needs on the ground with the capacities available from the voluntary pool. The ERC will then call upon Member States to deploy those capacities which are most needed. The final decision to deploy will remain with Member States.

Any other actions proposed in order to improve the quality of disaster response?

  • A 24/7 Emergency Response Centre (ERC) will be created, providing for an improved service with better planning and better co-ordination when a crisis hits. The ERC will ensure that Member States are fully informed and able to decide about the provision of the most needed assistance.

Transport arrangements for the immediate deployment of EU assistance will be simplified and strengthened. In many cases assistance is offered but transport – in particular air transport – is the bottleneck that prevents it from getting to where is needed.

  • The deployment of assets from the pool – which would be the nucleus of any operation triggered by activation of the Mechanism - will be 100 % financed . This will guarantee swift deployment of Members States' rescources.

  • Assets in the voluntary pool will comply with agreed minimum standards. These will be agreed between the Commission and Member States.

  • The EU will support the filling of gaps in Member States' capacities if these hamper an effective response to disasters.

  • EU assistance for training will be provided to allow for improved inter-operability of Member States' teams on the ground. Individual preparedness and trust in partners' capabilities is crucial for an effective response to cross-border disasters.

What is the link with the Solidarity Clause?

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union contains a new provision for a "Solidarity Clause" according to which the EU and its Member States shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster.

In line with this new provision, a joint proposal from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the arrangements for the implementation of the Solidarity Clause will be presented in 2012. A guiding principle in elaborating a framework for the Solidarity Clause is avoiding duplication with existing, well-functioning EU mechanisms and specific policy provisions in the Treaties.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was continuously strengthened during the last 10 years and provides a robust operational co-ordination platform for the European response to a variety of natural and man-made disasters affecting Member States.

The legislative proposal for the revision of the Civil Protection Mechanism takes into account the need to increase the preparedness for responding to disasters, including for situations when Member States would request assistance under the Solidarity Clause.

Will increased funding be available? How much and for what?

Civil Protection has the smallest budget of all EU activities. The Commission has proposed an increase (from approx. €25 million to €65 million) to reflect the increased frequency and intensity of disasters and the need for more robust prevention, preparedness and response policies.

The proposal provides increased funding opportunities to help MS improve their prevention and preparedness for major disaster, ranging from risk assessment and mapping to training.

The proposal also provides increases for the funding of response activities. Under the existing legislation, funding opportunities for the transport of Member States' assistance are extremely limited and relatively cumbersome. The overall objective of the new proposal is to make MS' response to major emergencies better coordinated, more effective and more visible. In order to achieve this and to create the necessary incentives for closer cooperation at EU level, the proposal increases the funding rate to 85% and in some cases even up to 100%. It also simplifies and streamlines the procedures for obtaining such funding. At the same time, the proposal introduces tighter criteria for this financing, limiting it to those types of assistance that are most needed, cost-effective and provided in a coordinated way. The result will therefore be a sharp increase in the overall cost-effectiveness of the response.

Finally, the proposal also makes it possible to finance certain prevention and preparedness activities in neighbouring countries, which will help those countries to improve their readiness and reduce the need for EU assistance during emergencies.

Next steps

The proposal will be sent to the European Parliament and the Council, which will negotiate the final text.

For more information

IP/11/1564 – Revision of the EU Civil Protection legislation: delivering more effective disaster management

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