The European Union provides assistance to countries and populations, both within Europe and abroad, when major disasters or humanitarian emergencies occur.
Together, the EU countries are the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid, helping millions of people worldwide each year. This aid accounts for 1% of the EU's total annual budget – around €4 per EU citizen.
EU action is guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Aid is channelled through 200+ international and local partner organisations and agencies, and supported by thousands of European volunteers.
Any European citizen or long-term resident in an EU Member State can take part to an EU aid volunteer programme.
Through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU, together with a number of other European countries, plays a key role in coordinating responses to crises in Europe and worldwide. Existing and potential crises are monitored around the clock and the participating countries also cooperate on risk assessment, disaster prevention preparedness and planning.
Emergency relief can take the form of items such as food, shelter or equipment, deployment of specially-equipped teams, or assessment and coordination by experts sent to the field. Relief teams, experts and equipment from participating countries are kept on standby to provide rapid EU responses all over the world.