The European Commission today presents a legislative proposal to strengthen European cooperation in civil protection which will provide for more efficient, effective and rapid response to disasters as well as enhanced prevention and preparedness actions. The overall goal is to develop a coherent disaster management policy.
‘One of the key proposals is the establishment of a voluntary pool of Member State specialised teams and equipment that will be available for immediate deployment as part of a collective European intervention,’ said Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
‘Although contributing to the pool will be entirely voluntary, there will be a clear expectation that the assets would be made available for a combined European response, unless they are needed at home or there are other compelling reasons why they cannot be deployed. Our proposal therefore aims to strengthen local capacities while at the same time making sure they can be mobilised whenever a European response is needed.
‘The most important innovation is that our legislation goes beyond disaster response and places a much greater emphasis on disaster prevention and risk management. Our intention is that these proposals will lay the foundations of a comprehensive disaster management policy for the European Union.’
The Commission proposes to create an European Emergency Response Capacity, moving from the current ad hoc arrangement to a predictable and reliable system that allows for good planning. An Emergency Response Centre (ERC) will be established, providing a round-the-clock service for more effective EU coordination when disasters hit, and ensuring that Member Stars remain fully informed at all times so they can decide more easily on the provision of financial and in-kind assistance.
The European Commission also envisages cooperation on the advance planning of European disaster-response operations by, among other measures, mapping Member States' assets and drawing up contingency plans, as well as improving risk-management planning.
The EU has two main instruments at its disposal to provide an initial response to disasters: humanitarian aid and civil protection. The Treaty of Lisbon sets out that ‘the Union shall encourage cooperation between Member States in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing and protecting against natural or man-made disasters.