European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Emergency Support Instrument

© European Union, 2020
What is it?

The Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) enables the European Union to support its Member States when a crisis reaches exceptional scale and impact, with wide-ranging consequences on the lives of citizens. In April 2020, the Emergency Support Instrument was activated to help EU countries address the coronavirus pandemic. ESI had been activated once before, in response to the 2016 refugee crisis in Europe.

Why is this important?

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a large-scale loss of life in the European Union and caused untold hardship for citizens. The EU had never faced in its history a health crisis of a similar scale, nor one spreading at this speed. Addressing this exceptional situation effectively requires a coordinated strategy of different measures aimed at saving lives, and preventing and alleviating human suffering.

Solidarity is a fundamental EU value, and the Emergency Support Instrument demonstrates it in practice. It allows the European Union to rapidly address the human and economic consequences of a crisis and fund actions that make a difference on the ground.

ESI is flexible, designed to respond to different types of evolving needs. Member States can use it when they require immediate support in addressing a crisis, as well as for crisis prevention, and during the recovery phase.

The Emergency Support Instrument intends to enhance existing EU programmes and instruments, including rescEU and the Joint Procurement Procedure, and to complement ongoing efforts at national level. ESI provides fast and targeted actions to support Member States in extraordinary circumstances. It also focuses on actions with a clear added value at the EU level. The Emergency Support Instrument can respond proactively, mobilising resources and deploying them across Member States on the basis of needs.

How are we helping?

Emergency support inside Europe can be provided in response to exceptional crises that result in severe and wide-ranging consequences for citizens in one or more EU Member States. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, €2.7 billion has been allocated to support EU Member States in their immediate response, exit and recovery phases from the pandemic.

The Emergency Support Instrument allows funds to be directed to areas such as logistics, medical supplies, testing, vaccines, treatment, emergency aid, and health care facilities and staff. The Emergency Support Instrument can support, among other things, the transport of patients and medical staff across EU Member States; the procurement of essential medicines; research and production of treatment and vaccines; and the development, purchase and distribution of testing supplies.

A first release of €220 million has been allocated to 3 actions under the responsibility of the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, focusing mainly on transport:

  1. Cargo transport (e.g. assistance and relief items) to the EU from third countries and within the EU
  2. Facilitation of transfer of patients within the EU and from the EU to third countries (from a Member State to a Member State or to a third country welcoming patients)
  3. Facilitation of transport within the EU and to the EU from third countries of health workers and teams, including operating costs

The EU will finance up to 100% of the eligible costs of these transport operations, depending on funds available.

Response to the Coronavirus pandemic

Between April and September 2020, the Emergency Support Instrument provided financial support of a total of €150 million to 18 Member States and the UK, for the transport of essential medical items, including life-saving personal protective equipment, medicines and medical equipment.

Funding availability

EU Member States may still apply for funding to support transfer of patients and transport of medical personnel and teams. Applications for these 2 strands are open-ended. The funding is only available to EU Member State authorities and UK authorities (until 31 December 2020).

Member State authorities (national, regional and local authorities and other public bodies or private law bodies with a public service mission) can contact ECHO-ESI@ec.europa.eu for further details on how to apply.

For more information, see the regularly updated Q&A section.

Last updated
05/01/2021