European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Emergency Support Instrument

© European Union, 2020
What is it?

The Emergency Support Instrument 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. This Instrument had been activated once, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe back in 2016.

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 has not faced a health crisis in its history on this scale or spreading at this speed. Addressing this exceptional situation effectively requires a coordinated strategy of different measures aimed at preserving  lives, and preventing and alleviating human suffering.

Solidarity is one of the main EU values among Member States. The Emergency Support Instrument allows the European Union to address the human and economic consequences of a crisis and funds actions that make a difference on the ground.

This Instrument is designed to be an agile instrument that has the flexibility to respond to different types or evolving needs. It can be used when EU Member States require immediate support to respond to a crisis, for prevention and during its recovery.

The Emergency Support Instrument intends both to enhance existing EU programmes and instruments, and to complement ongoing efforts at national level. The Instrument 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?

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the EU Commission allocated €2.7 billion to support Member States in their immediate response, exit and recovery phases from the pandemic.

The Emergency Support Instrument allows these funds to be directed to areas such as logistics, medical supplies, testing, vaccines, treatment, emergency aid, health care facilities and staff, industrial preparedness, and border management. The 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; development, purchase and distribution of testing supplies; conversion of production capacities of EU enterprises; and development of common health check measures at EU external borders.

A first release of €220 million is allocated to three actions under the responsibility of the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection that focus mostly 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 and operating costs

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

Response to the Coronavirus pandemic 

On 18 June, a pilot operation has successfully delivered over seven tonnes of personal protective equipment to Bulgaria. The cargo includes over 500,000 protective masks purchased by Bulgaria with transport costs covered by the EU.

Funding availability

EU Member States may now apply for funding under these three actions. The funding is only available to EU Member State authorities.  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. 

Last updated
25/06/2020