The European Commission's proposal to strengthen the EU's collective response to natural disasters, known as rescEU, has entered into force today. Numerous disasters have affected all regions of Europe in recent years, causing hundreds of casualties and billions in damage to infrastructure.
To protect citizens better, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the Commission reached an agreement last December to strengthen the existing EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism establishes a new European reserve of capacities (the so-called rescEU reserve), including firefighting planes and helicopters, while boosting disaster prevention and preparedness measures.
rescEU can also be activated in the future to respond to medical, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies. To ensure that Europe is prepared for this year's forest fire season the new legislation will include a transition phase during which Participating States can get funding in exchange of putting their firefighting means at the disposal of the EU.
On this occasion, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: "With rescEU, we have put words into action. We have delivered a practical tool for citizens that can save thousands of lives in the future. rescEU means having a much stronger, pan-European civil protection system. I am very grateful to our Member States in the Council of the EU and the European Parliament for their overwhelming support over the last months. With the next forest fire season just a few months away, our EU Emergency Centre is working around the clock with Member States to make rescEU operational."
Forest fires, severe floods, storms, earthquakes and landslides resulted in loss of lives and devastated whole regions. Climate change is predicted to further exacerbate the effects of such disasters. 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.