In March 2019 new legislation strengthening the Union Civil Protection Mechanism entered into force. Its new element – additional rescEU reserve capacity is now a reality that boosts the EU's ability to respond to and prepare for natural and man-made disasters.
The new legislation to strengthen the existing EU Civil Protection Mechanism boosts EU financial and operational support to disaster response systems of the Member States and participating countries. Concretely, it gradually establishes an additional reserve of capacities, called rescEU. The new system also sees greater investment in preparedness activities and knowledge sharing.
Why did the Commission propose the rescEU initiative in 2017?
Every year, forest fires, severe floods, storms, earthquakes, landslides but also man-made disasters (terrorist attacks; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear – CBRN - incidents) result in loss of lives and devastate whole regions. Climate change will further exacerbate the impacts of disasters in the future. In 2018 alone, natural disasters killed more than 100 people in Europe. The economic costs are also huge: close to €10 billion in damages on the European continent were recorded in 2016. Last year's forest fire season reminded us once again that the EU must be better equipped to protect its citizens from disasters. In the same time the security environment gets more complex. With rescEU the EU now takes concrete operational steps to better prevent, prepare and respond to all kind of disasters.
Building on the existing Mechanism, the newly established rescEU creates an additional reserve of capacities to respond to disasters, owned and hosted by Member States, ready to be deployed when needed. The composition of this additional rescEU reserve is based on an analysis of disaster risks in the Union and existing gaps in disaster response and preparedness activities across Member States. Initially, rescEU capacities will include firefighting planes and helicopters. Further means will be added over time, including in those needed to respond to medical emergencies or chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents.
When will rescEU be operational?
Forest fires do not wait. Transitional arrangements are put in place right now to ensure that the EU can draw upon available assets to fight forest fires already in 2019. During a transitional period (until 2025), the EU will integrate national means into rescEU with EU co-financing (75%) of their ‘stand-by' costs.
To date, a total of 7 firefighting planes (6 Canadairs and 1 Dash 8) and 6 helicopters were offered to compose the “rescEU transition” fleet in 2019. The Commission is in contact with other Participating States who have also expressed interest in contributing.
Other rescEU capacities will be developed over time, in particular in the field of medical emergencies (MEDEVAC, Field hospitals (EMT-3 type), etc.) and events related to chemical, biological, radio-nuclear hazards (CBRN). Preliminary technical discussions are taking place with Member States to agree on the type of capacities and numbers needed to be developed under rescEU. The strengthened support to deployment from the European Civil Protection Pool also takes immediate effect upon formal adoption of the revised legislation.
How does rescEU work operationally?
rescEU capacities are to be used whenever Member States cannot cope with a disaster themselves and require extra EU assistance that needs to be delivered fast. It is an additional “safety net”. A great part of operational costs, as well as costs for developing rescEU capacities will be covered by EU financing. rescEU capacities are owned and hosted by Member States. The Commission, in close cooperation with Member States requesting assistance, as well as those owning rescEU capacities decides on the deployment of these capacities.
How does the EU support Member State solidarity through the use of national capacities in the European Civil Protection Pool?
The new policy also includes a number of new provisions that help Member States boost existing capacities and contribute more to the European Civil Protection Pool:
- The new legislation aims to incentivise Member States (and Participating States) to help each other in times of need. Concretely, the EU is co-financing assets that Member States put in the European Civil Protection Pool at 75% of operational costs when used inside the EU (or a Participating State) and 75% of transport costs for deployment outside EU.
- The new legislation aims to make all existing national assets operational for international deployment. When national capacities need an upgrade or repair for an international response, Member States can request EU co-financing (75% of that upgrade/repair cost provided it does not exceed 50% of development cost of the capacity). These capacities in turn become part of the European Civil Protection Pool and are used to respond to future disasters.
- The new legislation establishes a Civil Protection Knowledge Network to support all civil protection actors across Europe, bringing together a full range of expertise on disasters. This allows all disaster response actors to learn from each other and to speak "the same technical language".
- The Commission works together with Member States ensuring that investments undertaken via the Structural Funds are "disaster proof". Investments take into account national risk assessments. In addition, the Commission has simplified the reporting approach. In cases where Member States need further support, the Commission makes recommendations on national prevention and preparedness measures.
European Civil Protection Pool: how many assets and from which countries?
The European Civil Protection Pool (former "European Emergency Response Capacity") comprises over 100 response capacities offered to the Pool, committed by 23 different Participating States. These include assets such as firefighting teams and aircraft, flood containment, water purification, and chemical biological, radiological and nuclear detection and sampling. Experience has shown that pre-committed capacities are not always enough, because disasters can occur simultaneously. The Commission therefore strengthens the European Civil Protection Pool by providing increased Union financing to Member States for the adaptation, repair and operating costs of Pool capacities. This provides a significant additional incentive to Member States to commit their capacities to the European Civil Protection Pool.
Does this new structure also work for activations of the Union Civil protection Mechanism outside the EU?
The new policy focuses on strengthening the EU and Member States' collective ability to respond to disasters in Europe. However, as is the case now, any third country or international organisation can activate the Mechanism and make a request for assistance. The European Civil Protection Pool can be mobilised. The Union budget covers the transport costs of these operations (75% of transport costs).
In those cases where disasters affect Member State territories and EU citizens abroad, rescEU can also be mobilised. Operational and transport costs are then entirely covered by Union funding. The Participating States of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey) equally benefit from the new possibilities offered under rescEU.
How does the new legislation improve preparedness and prevention?
Prevention and preparedness are the cornerstones of an effective response to natural disasters. Investment in disaster prevention has a clear benefit – saving lives and livelihoods as well as minimising economic and physical damage. The new policy strengthens disaster prevention and continues to support Member States in improving their disaster risk management. Through a simplified reporting framework the EU asks Member States to report on key risks through risk assessment and risk management capabilities summaries, as well as to provide additional information on prevention and preparedness measures related to key risks with a cross-border nature or those low probability risks with high impact.
The legislation also provides targeted support to the Member States frequently affected by severe disasters to strengthen their prevention and preparedness through the establishment of consultation mechanisms, and the possibility to deploy expert missions and to make recommendations.
How many times has the Union Civil Protection Mechanism been activated since 2014?
Over the last five years (2014-2019), the Mechanism was activated more than 100 times for disasters both inside and outside the EU.
How much does rescEU cost?
The new legislation foresees a budget increase of around two hundred (200)* million euro for the upcoming two years (2019-2020).
[* this number takes into account expected budgetary decrease from €242 million to allow for increase of share of redeployments given Member States position]
For more information
 Link to the map: https://erccportal.jrc.ec.europa.eu/getdailymap/docId/2893