What is the new proposal? How does it work?
The European Commission has proposed a Council Regulation enabling the provision of emergency support in response to exceptional crises or disasters within EU Member States, which give rise to severe humanitarian consequences. The provision of emergency assistance will be based on Article 122(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This will allow for support to be provided in the fastest and broadest possible way, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States.
In the context of the current refugee crisis in Europe, the concrete support actions will be decided by the Commission based upon proposals from implementing organisations with the necessary expertise, such as UN agencies, NGOs, international organisations or specialised services of the Member States.
As a well-established principle in all disaster relief efforts, the humanitarian operation will take place in complementarity with and in support of the competent authorities of the affected country
What kind of actions and support will be covered by the new instrument?
Emergency support aims to provide a needs-based emergency response, complementing and supplementing the response of the affected Member States. The support covers assistance and protection operations aimed at preserving life, alleviating suffering and safeguarding human dignity. Such operations would, for instance, encompass the provision of basic relief items, health, education and protection services, shelter material and related services, water and sanitation, or other types of urgently needed relief. In view of the current refugee crisis, emergency support can include – but is not be limited to – the provision of food, shelter, medicine and other basic necessities for the large numbers of arriving men, women and children.
How does the Commission proposal differ from external humanitarian assistance for countries outside the European Union?
The Proposal for emergency support aims at filling a gap, since the currently available instruments at Union level are not designed to address humanitarian needs within the territory of the EU. Like the EU's external humanitarian aid, the newly proposed assistance within the EU will be provided based on needs and strictly adhering to the International Humanitarian Principles.
Is the proposed emergency support instrument limited to the current refugee crisis?
The immediate application will be to direct humanitarian assistance in EU Member States which are experiencing a sudden and massive influx of third-country nationals into their territory.
However the proposed emergency support is not limited to the current refugee crisis. It can be used, for example, in other major emergencies with wide-ranging humanitarian impacts such as nuclear or chemical accidents, terrorist or cyber-attacks and epidemics.
For how long will this emergency support instrument be in place?
The proposed instrument will not be limited to a given period of time.
How much money will be available under this instrument?
Based on available data on the influx of refugees from third countries, and since it can reasonably be assumed that some of these needs will be covered by other entities, the Commission has concluded that an initial budget of €700 million from 2016-2018, would be required in order to address the growing humanitarian needs in the European Union, particularly in EU countries along the Western Balkans route. Based on needs assessments carried out in cooperation with several EU Member States, the Commission will urgently propose, to the European Parliament and to the Council, an amending budget for 2016 to create the budget line for the instrument. This would be dedicated to supporting and complementing Member States' actions to address the outstanding humanitarian needs of refugees. The estimated needs for 2016 are €300 million with a further €200 million each for use in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Can emergency support be provided in richer Member States or only those facing severe economic difficulties?
The emergency support can be made available to partners operating in Member States where their response capacities are overwhelmed by exceptional crises or disasters giving rise to severe humanitarian consequences.
The allocation, scope and scale of the emergency support will be based on the concrete needs in individual Member States.
This in line with the EU's standard practice concerning humanitarian assistance outside the EU, where any assistance will be provided to correspond to humanitarian needs, as identified in the relevant needs assessments.
Can this support be used for European citizens?
The EU Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) directly supports EU Member States' actions to provide material assistance to the most deprived. National authorities may also support non-material assistance to the most deprived people, to help them integrate better into society.
Who will carry out the emergency response actions?
The emergency response actions will be carried out by humanitarian organisations, including UN agencies, international organisations and non-governmental organisations. Close cooperation with national authorities will of course be important in improving the effectiveness of this response.
Why not simply use AMIF or ISF funds?
Pending entry into force of the proposed Regulation, the Commission will continue to address possible humanitarian needs in the Member States through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF). Although primarily designed to support long-term and structural measures aiming at strengthening EU Member States' permanent capacities in the field of migration and security, in emergency situations AMIF and ISF funds can also be used to cater for a wide range of short-term needs (including of a humanitarian nature), especially through their emergency assistance mechanism.
Recent events, however, have made clear that the use of AMIF and ISF funds alone is not enough and that the deployment of emergency funding requires a request to be lodged by a Member State and a decision to be taken by an board of experts. The procedure is fairly quick, but in face of genuine humanitarian crises, it is not quick enough. Moreover, national authorities remain responsible for providing the funds under AMIF and ISF, and must have the capacity to administer them. For humanitarian support inside the Union, existing instruments therefore need to be complemented by a special emergency support mechanism.
What has the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism done so far in response to the refugee crisis?
The Civil Protection Mechanism can be used to mobilise material support both within and outside the European Union. However, it does not provide funding and rather relies on voluntary offers of material assistance from Member States, which are currently all facing very similar constraints.
The transportation costs of such material assistance are covered by up to 85% by the EU budget. However, once the material has been delivered, there is no mechanism to follow through on, for example, the setting up of tents, or the connection of electricity to mobile housing units.
Since September 2015, the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated by Croatia, Greece, Slovenia and Serbia. In response, close to 780,000 individual items have been offered by 15 EU Member States, namely Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom. Earlier in 2015, Hungary had also activated the mechanism. This request was closed by Hungary as the needs were met.
The assistance provided includes items such as protective clothing, shelter, bedding, sanitation & medical equipment.
For More Information
IP/16/482: Commission proposes new Emergency Assistance instrument for faster crisis response within the EU
Website of Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management: http://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/stylianides_en