CBRN is an acronym for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials that could harm the society through their accidental or deliberate release, dissemination or impacts.
Over the last decades, most terrorist attacks were carried out with the help of conventional means, such as firearms and explosives. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that terrorist organisations might eventually turn to unconventional weapons, such as chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials, potentially leading to a high number of casualties and causing huge socio-economic damage.
Securing CBRN materials has been part of the Commission's activities since 2006. Following a report of the CBRN Task Force, which involved experts from public and private sectors, the Commission presented a Communication on strengthening CBRN security in the EU, including an EU CBRN Action Plan.
The CBRN Action Plan consists of 124 actions. Its main objective is to complement national measures that address existing gaps and promote exchanges of information and best practices. Taking into account the number of actions and the level of ambition of the Action Plan, it will set the political agenda in this field for the next three to five years.
The Action Plan focuses on three main strands:
The implementation of the Action Plan is a key part of the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action. A review of the Action Plan was undertaken in 2012. An overview of its implementation by the Member States and EU bodies is provided in the 2012 Progress Report on the Implementation of the EU CBRN Action Plan. The report also underlined the importance of developing a more strategic and overarching approach to CBRN and explosives (E) policies. In November 2012, draft Council conclusions started a discussion on the new CBRNE Agenda. At the same time we see more and more deliverables coming from actions launched within the framework of the Action Plan, e.g. a CBRN Glossary. The European Commission's intention is to use the Glossary in order to achieve a common understanding of terms related to CBRN area. The Glossary is to be used not only in the European Union, but also outside its borders, e.g. during the implementation of the EU CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative.
On 5 May 2014 the Commission has adopted the Communication on a new approach to the detection and mitigation of CBRN-E risks at EU level.
In the Communication the Commission proposes a set of 30 actions aimed at facilitating practical cooperation for the detection and mitigation of CBRN-E risks at EU level, including working with the industry, operators of facilities handling CBRN-E materials (equipment manufacturers and security services providers) and other stakeholders. Concrete tools will be developed, ranging from guidance materials, training and awareness building, and testing activities.
The Communication is a result of extensive consultations with Member States and other relevant stakeholders, which followed the 2012 progress reports of the EU CBRN Action Plan and the Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives. The progress reports revealed that even though there are many significant achievements, the implementation of Action Plans is uneven.
In order to assist the Commission in its tasks, a CBRN Advisory Group was established in 2010, with a composition similar to that of the CBRN Task Force. The Advisory Group also meets in sub-groups on B, C and RN related issues respectively. Subgroups and workshops are also set up ad hoc to focus on different topics and themes of interest such a group on developing scenarios, workshop on insider threats, etc. In addition, the Commission has developed an EU CBRN Resilience Programme to improve CBRN work within the framework of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Its objective is to ensure better links between different civil protection activities in the field of CBRN and to tackle identified gaps in a coherent way.