The European Commission revealed ambitious new plans to strengthen Europe's ability to deal with natural disasters. The EU's Civil Protection Mechanism is currently based on a voluntary system, through which the EU coordinates the voluntary contributions of participating states to a country that has requested assistance. The initiative comes in light of more complex and frequent natural disasters that have seriously affected many European countries over recent years. Alone in 2017, over 200 people were killed by natural disasters in Europe and over one million hectares of forest have been destroyed.
A key part of the proposal is the creation of rescEU, a reserve at European level of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams.
The Commission proposal focuses on two complementary strands of action: creating a stronger collective response at the European level, and improved prevention and preparedness capacities.
Strengthening European response capacities: rescEU
An EU civil protection response reserve of civil protection assets will be established to assist Member States in responding to disasters, when national capacities are overwhelmed. This reserve will be called rescEU and will include assets, such as firefighting aircraft and water pumping equipment, which will complement national capacities. All costs and capacities of rescEU would be fully covered by EU financing, with the Commission retaining the operational control of these assets and deciding on their deployment.
In parallel, the Commission will assist Member States in boosting their national capacities, by financing the adaptation, repair, transport and operation costs of their existing resources – whereas today only transportation costs are covered. These assets would become part of a shared pool of emergency response resources under the European Civil Protection Pool, and would be made available for deployment when disaster strikes.
Stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness
Under the proposal, Member States will be asked to share their national prevention and preparedness strategies, in order to collectively identify and address possible gaps.
The proposal strengthens cooperation and coherence with existing EU policies dealing with prevention and preparedness. This includes for example the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, the European Structural and Investment Funds, the Solidarity Fund, environmental legislation (e.g. flood management plans and eco-system based solutions), research and innovation and policies to address serious cross-border threats to health and more.