International co-operation

As natural and man-made disasters know no borders, international co-operation in civil protection is on the increase as various countries and organisations rush to each other's aid during an emergency. The Community civil protection mechanism itself has been active in a number of countries outside EU territory. The Commission has a number of agreements or arrangements that facilitate the provision of civil protection assistance when such situations arise, as well as joint enhance preparedness measures.

European Economic Area

The EU and the three countries party to the European Economic Area (EEA) - Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - have a special relationship. This is due to an agreement which ensures that the internal market and various Community programmes and activities are extended to these three states. The EEA agreement is in itself a dynamic one. Each new act of the Community is examined to identify if it is “EEA relevant” and if both parties agree on the relevance, then the new act is integrated into the agreement.  The nature of the EEA agreement allowed these three countries to participate in both the Action programme and the Community mechanism for civil protection.

Candidate countries

The participation of candidate countries in Community programmes is an important element of their pre-accession Strategy. It familiarises these countries with the Community policies and working methods prior to their accession to the European Union.


Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia



Croatia (HR - Hrvatska) participates in the Civil Protection Financial Instrument and the Civil Protection Mechanism. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Croatia's participation in the Mechanism entered into force in September 2009, making Croatia the 31st Participating State of the Mechanism. Already since May 2008, Croatia participates in all activities covered by the Financial Instrument, which includes inter alia the co-organisation of the Modules Basic Training programme.

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

To date, there is no agreement on civil protection arrangements between the European Commission and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. The participation the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia in the Community Mechanism will be possible once a Memorandum of Understanding is signed.


The EU and Turkey established a customs union in 1995. Turkey has been a candidate country since 1999. In December 2004, the European Council defined the conditions for the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey, which led to the start of the screening process in October 2005.

Although there is as yet no agreement on civil protection arrangements between the European Commission and Turkey, the two parties have had initial talks on establishing a framework within which Turkey could participate in the Community mechanism for civil protection. The participation Turkey in the Community Mechanism will be possible once a Memorandum of Understanding is signed.

Regional initiatives

Euromed civil protection cooperation

Central European Initiative

EUR-OPA Agreement (Council of Europe)

The Northern Dimension

Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)

Euromed civil protection cooperation

Civil protection is a key area of cooperation under the Union for the Mediterranean. The Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters Programme (PPRD) contributes to the development of stronger prevention, preparedness and response capacities in civil protection at international, national and local level. It also aims at bringing the Mediterranean Partner Countries progressively closer to the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Funded by the European Commission, PPRD South started in March 2009 and will run until 2012. It has a budget of €5 million. PPRD South is managed by a consortium led by the Italian Department for Civil Protection and including the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the Civil Protection Authorities of France, Egypt and Algeria. The Programme’s beneficiary countries are Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Turkey, Israel, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. Mauritania and Libya participate as observers. For more information, see

Before the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean, civil protection cooperation in the Mediterranean was already an important dimension of the political and security pillar of the Barcelona process. In 1998, regional Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the field of civil protection started with a pilot project for the “Creation of a Euro-Mediterranean System of Prevention, Mitigation and Management of Natural and Man-made Disasters” under the lead of Italy and Egypt. This project was designed to strengthen civil protection cooperation. In 2004, the pilot programme was followed by the “Bridge” programme, carried out by France, Egypt, Italy and Algeria, to build political confidence and strengthen prevention, mitigation and management of disasters. The Bridge programme ran until 2008.

Central European Initiative

The Central European Initiative (CEI) cooperation agreement on the forecast, prevention and mitigation of natural and technological disasters. This agreement was concluded in 1996 between Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovenia (the Commission has observer status). The cooperation includes exchange of scientific and technical information and relevant data on a regular basis, common research programmes and training of experts in order to set up common programmes on Civil Protection and disaster management. An operational manual comprising data for the five parties has been compiled for this purpose. Progress has also been made in the improvement of communication links between responsible national institutions in respect to earthquakes.

EUR-OPA Agreement (Council of Europe)

The European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) - Open partial agreement on the prevention of, protection against and organisation of relief in major natural and technological disasters  - was adopted in March 1987 by the Council of Europe. The purpose of this agreement is to promote closer cooperation among member states on preventing and responding to natural and technological disasters. Work is directed to policy making and scientific and technical co-ordination, including development of early warning systems and a significant number of research centres. It should be noted that not all EU Member States are parties to this agreement, while the Commission enjoys an observer status.

The Northern Dimension

The Northern Dimension in the external and cross-border policies of the European Union reflects the EU’s relations with Russia (and particularly North-west Russia) in the Baltic Sea region and Arctic Sea region. The Northern Dimension concept covers a broad and diverse geographic area, stretching from the Arctic and sub-Arctic to the southern shores of the Baltic, and from North-West Russia in the East to Iceland and Greenland in the West. The Northern Dimension addresses the specific challenges and opportunities arising in those regions and aims to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the EU and its member states, the northern countries associated with the EU under the EEA (Norway and Iceland) and the Russian Federation. The Northern Dimension is implemented within the framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia. A particular emphasis is placed on subsidiarity, and on ensuring the active participation of all stakeholders in the North, including regional organizations, local and regional authorities, the academic and business communities, and civil society.

Several key priority themes for dialogue and cooperation under the Northern Dimension have been identified, including

- Economy, business and infrastructure

- Human resources, education, culture, scientific research and health

- The environment, nuclear safety, and natural resources

- Cross-border cooperation and regional development

- Justice and home affairs.

See also civil protection relations with Russia

Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) is an overall political forum for regional intergovernmental co-operation. The members of the Council are the 11 states of the Baltic Sea region as well as the European Commission. The CBSS was established by the region’s Foreign Ministers in Copenhagen in 1992 as a response to the geopolitical changes that took place in the Baltic Sea region with the end of the Cold War. Since its founding, the CBSS has contributed to ensuring positive developments within the Baltic Sea region and has served as a driving force for multi-lateral co-operation.

The CBSS is a flexible, demand-driven and result-oriented forum for regional cooperation. As Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has remarked, “the CBSS plays a key role in helping to underpin a stable, democratic, prosperous and undivided Europe.” To this end, the CBSS identifies political goals, creates action-plans, initiates projects and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas concerning regional issues of common interest. The CBSS is responsible for overall co-ordination of intergovernmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region in accordance with the organisation’s Terms of Reference.

The Council of the Baltic Sea States continues to demonstrate success in a number of fields such as, i.a.: removing regional economic barriers to trade and investment; improving nuclear and radiation safety; confidence building through the promotion of democracy and human rights; faciliting crossborder cooperation (e.g. as project partner of the INTERREG III B-Project Baltic Euroregional Network, a joint endeavour of the CBSS, Nordic Council of Ministers and other partners); transforming curricula and teaching methods at the three main universities in the Baltic States and at Kaliningrad State University by way of the EuroFaculty Programme; and finally, contributing input to the EU’s policy frameworks for Northern Europe such as the Northern Dimension. Since 1998 the CBSS has been serviced by a permanent international Secretariat that is located in Stockholm, Sweden and funded by the Member States.

Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)

The Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) is the forum for intergovernmental cooperation on issues concerning the Barents Region. The BEAC meets at Foreign Ministers level in the chairmanship country at the end of term of office. The chairmanship rotates every second year, between Norway, Finland, Russia and Sweden. Finland took over the chair from Norway in November 2005 for the period 2005-2007, and will be followed by Russia 2007-2009 and Sweden 2009-2011. BEAC was established in 1993 in order to "provide impetus to existing cooperation and consider new initiatives and proposals" (Kirkenes declaration of 11 January 1993). Around six million people live in this area, which is three times as large as France. This Euro-Arctic region is characterised by its harsh climate and long distances. But no other part of Europe and indeed few places on earth, are equally rich in forests, fish, minerals, oil and gas. Besides such natural resources the Barents Euro-Arctic Region has a skilled labour force and constitutes a meeting point between the European Union, the Russian Federation and Norway. Arctic and sub-arctic indigenous peoples (Sami, Nenets and Vepsians) live in the Barents Region, in many ways leading the kind of lives that they have traditionally led.

International organisations

United Nations Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (UN OCHA)

In October 2004, the European Commission and UN OCHA concluded an agreement on cooperation and coordination in disaster response. This exchange of letters has proven to be an effective basis for close cooperation and important progress has been made during recent emergencies. Both at headquarters and at field level, the EU is in close contact with UN experts to ensure that our assistance is effectively integrated into the overall relief effort coordinated by the UN.

As far as disaster preparedness is concerned, the Commission works very closely with UN OCHA on the development of mutual training programmes in a spirit of pursuing complementarities. UN representatives are invited to the Commission's civil protection training courses and simulation exercises and vice versa. This is important to ensure that our experts can work well together, when called upon.

During the response to an emergency, information is exchanged both at headquarters level and in the field. 

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

In emergencies where UNEP is involved, the European Commission's civil protection mechanism have been increasingly cooperating with each other. Following the signing of an informal cooperation paper (together with UN OCHA) in December 2005, there have been a number of emergencies where working together resulted in maximising the overall impact of the assistance provided to a disaster-stricken country.

These emergencies have included the earthquake in Indonesia in May 2006 and the subsequent impact on the Merapi volcano and on several dams; the oil spill off the Lebanese coast in July 2006; the chemical spill in the Ivory Coast in September 2006; and the oil spill in the Philippines in September 2006.

Third countries


In May 2005 the EU and Russia adopted a single package of roadmaps implementing in the medium-term four common spaces – common economic space; a common space of freedom, security and justice; a space of co-operation in the field of external security; as well as a space of research and education, including cultural aspects.

Co-operation with Russia in the field of civil protection is one of the priorities of the Common space of external security. The implementation of an administrative arrangement forms a part of this co-operation.   

This arrangement, signed in May 2004 between the Commission's service responsible for civil protection (Directorate-General for Environment) and its Russian counterpart (EMERCOM) provides for co-operation between the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) and the Operations Centre of EMERCOM. It foresees that members of the operational staff spend one week a year in the operational centre of the other service in order to gain practical experience. EMERCOM officials are also attending MIC training courses on an ad hoc basis.

Two EMERCOM representatives spent the last week of October 2005 in the MIC. During those five working days they were given briefings on different dossiers from the experts working in the MIC. The visit of EMERCOM representatives was an opportunity to exchange information on the activities of both organisations. Similarly, two MIC officials were seconded to EMERCOM for one week in Moscow.


EMERCOM visit to the MIC, October 2005

United States

As a result of the 1990 Transatlantic Declaration, the EU and the USA hold regular presidential summits to assess and develop transatlantic cooperation. However, neither the Transatlantic Declaration nor the New Transatlantic agenda, signed in 1995 at the EU–US summit in Madrid, provide for any kind of cooperation in the field of disaster response with the US.

Nevertheless, the Community mechanism for civil protection was activated on United States territory for the Hurricane Katrina emergency which brought extensive damage to same areas of the US.

Following that intervention, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), visited the MIC in November 2005. A MIC representative visited the Joint Field Office in Baton Rouge and witnessed the consequences of disaster Katrina in New Orleans on 15 and 16 December 2005.


The European Commission and Ukraine have agreed to cooperate more closely on civil protection matters. An administrative arrangement concluded between the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) and the Ministry of Ukraine of Emergencies and Affairs of Popular Protection from the Consequences of Chernobyl Catastrophe provides for the exchange of relevant information during emergencies and includes cooperation in joint communication exercises and exchanges of operational contact details and communication templates.

This arrangement is the second one such document signed with one of the European Union's eastern neighbours. This arrangement is managed by the MIC, the European Commission's civil protection coordinating body.

Disasters do not stop at national borders. It is for this reason the European Union works with its neighbours to help mitigate the effects of trans-boundary catastrophes. The 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear facilities affected many parts of Europe and serves as a reminder of the potentially devastating effects of such disasters. European Union Member States and those working with the European Environment Agency (EEA) co-operate in disaster prevention, preparedness and response through the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection.

Signing of administrative arrangement with Ukraine