The 2008 Commission Communication on reinforcing the Union's disaster response capacity argued that the EU should embark on an integrated approach to disasters. The full disaster cycle – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery – should be taken into consideration for any type of disaster, be it natural or man-made. While the Community Civil Protection Mechanism serves as a good platform for the coordination of response to disasters, there is no comprehensive approach to disaster prevention at EU level. The European Parliament, Council and Member States all called for more action at Community level to prevent disasters.
The European Commission has been working to fill this gap and in February 2009 published a Communication on "A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters" (read the press release here). Over the last few years, Europe's forest fires, floods and droughts have become fiercer and more intense. This has a devastating affect on people's lives, their livelihood and the environment. The Prevention Communication proposes to focus action at EU-level on three areas:
- Developing knowledge-based prevention policies
- Linking actors and policies throughout the disaster management cycle
- Improving the effectiveness of existing financial and legislative instruments
The Communication concluded that these improvements could be made within the existing legal structure for civil protection.
Following the publication of the Prevention Communication, the Commission is working to implement the actions proposed in the document. Further input from the European Parliament and Council will also be sought. A further public consultation on prevention is planned for the end of 2009. Information on the latest stakeholder meetings can be found here.
Two studies were undertaken to identify prevention gaps in existing Community instruments and to analyse the approach to prevention taken by Member States. These studies suggested that the EU should have a single framework covering prevention. They pointed to a need for more sharing of information and exchange of best-practice among Member States. The EU could assist in developing joint standards and methodologies with the aim of improving efforts when dealing with cross-border emergencies.