Today the General Affairs Council (GAC) welcomed the Communication on disaster response capacity that the Commission adopted on 26 October to equip Europe with a better, faster, and more efficient EU response capacity to disasters. In the conclusions of the Council, the ministers welcome "the Communication […] ‘Towards a stronger European disaster response: the role of civil protection and humanitarian assistance’ and its general objectives aiming at a more predictable, effective, efficient, coherent and visible European response to disasters; they agreed that an enhanced, cost-effective European response must follow an all-hazard approach, should bring together all relevant players, in particular civil protection and humanitarian assistance actors, and should ensure consistency and synergies between the different instruments".
The Council also agreed on the need for a 24/7 operation room and welcomed the merger of the ECHO and MIC crisis rooms. In the press conference that followed the council, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Institutional Reform Steven Vanackere, who had chaired the meeting, welcomed the council decision saying, "The General Affairs Council received last month excellent input from the Commission and the reactions in the Council have been very positive today. Recent catastrophes in Haiti and Pakistan have seen a good response from the European Union and member states. In some respects we have seen that better coordination and more pooling of resources could have improved our action. We certainly do not aim to decrease member states' responsibilities: they maintain full control of their capabilities. No new European structure is aimed at, Council conclusions aim at strengthening EU capacities in terms of earlier response, better planning, better pooling of resources and better coordination on the ground."
The Communication that the Commission presented in October aims to further reinforce the coordination of the EU response to disasters, both within and outside its borders. In particular, it proposes the creation of a European Response Capacity in order to improve efficiency and coherence. The Communication also suggests developing contingency plans and calls for the creation of a voluntary pool of pre-committed member state emergency assets. The stated aim is to replace the current ad-hoc system with a more predictable and immediate response The Communication also envisages a European Emergency Response Centre (EER Centre). A genuine response centre, it will be created by merging the humanitarian aid (ECHO) and civil protection (MIC) crisis rooms. The Centre will be designed to pool experience and collect real-time information for both fields of intervention. The Commission plans to propose legislative initiatives on this area in 2011.