Sommaire: 12 May 2010, Brussels - European Commission memo on frequently asked questions about the European Civil Protection Mechanism
What is the European Civil Protection Mechanism?
The European Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to support the mobilisation of emergency assistance in the event of major disasters.
EU and neighbouring countries are periodically affected by natural and man-made disasters. The primary responsibility for dealing with the immediate effects of a disaster lies with the country where it has occurred. Nevertheless, when the scale of the emergency overwhelms national response capabilities, a disaster-stricken country can benefit from civil protection means or teams in other EU countries. This also applies to countries outside the EU - any country in the world can call on the European Civil Protection Mechanism for assistance.
By pooling the civil protection capabilities of the participating states, the Mechanism can ensure better protection, primarily of people, but also of the natural and cultural environment, and property.
What types of disasters does the Civil Protection Mechanism cover?
The Mechanism can be activated in response to any type of natural or man-made disaster, such as earthquakes, floods, forest fires, industrial accidents, marine pollution or terrorist attacks.
What can the Civil Protection Mechanism do in the case of marine pollution incidents?
The Commission has provided operational support to Member States faced with major pollution incidents through a 24/7 "Urgent Pollution Alert Section" since 1987. With the establishment of the Civil Protection Mechanism in 2001, the Mechanism has covered both civil protection and marine pollution emergencies. If it receives a request for assistance in relation to a marine pollution incident, it forwards it to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which manages a stand-by vessel oil recovery service for European sea areas. This network of response vessels is ready to be mobilised, upon request, when the scale of a pollution incident is beyond that of the resources available in the affected country. Outside Europe the Mechanism can deploy marine pollution experts.
Which countries participate in the European Civil Protection Mechanism?
Currently 31 countries participate in the European Civil Protection Mechanism, they are: all 27 Member States of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Croatia. The Mechanism is open to candidate countries and also cooperates with other regional organisations and third countries.
There are good reasons for EU-level cooperation in the field of civil protection. By pooling the resources of different Member States, it is possible to provide a common response that is more effective than any Member State can deliver on its own. A well coordinated response saves the duplication of efforts and ensures that what is sent meets the real needs of the affected region.
The international role played by European countries in the provision of civil protection assistance is growing. This can be seen in recent disasters, such as the South Asia tsunami in 2004, the hurricane in the United States in 2005, and the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. Inside Europe, the Mechanism has been activated to assist for example with fighting the forest fires in Southern Europe in 2009.
There is clear added value in working together. Cooperation allows the pooling of resources, thereby maximising the combined European effort on site. The management of natural and man-made disasters is a clear example of the value of action at EU level, where the responsibility of the national authorities of the affected country for dealing directly with disasters remains unchallenged but is facilitated and assisted by a concerted collective effort.
What are the main tools of the Mechanism?
The European Civil Protection Mechanism has a number of tools at its disposal to facilitate both adequate preparedness and effective response to disasters at EU level.
The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) is the operational heart of the Mechanism. It is run by the European Commission in Brussels and is accessible 24 hours a day. It gives countries access to a "one-stop-shop" of civil protection resources that are available in the participating states. Any country within or outside the Union that is affected by a major disaster can appeal for assistance via the MIC. It acts as a communication hub between participating states, the affected country and the experts who are dispatched to the field. It also provides useful and updated information on the actual status of an ongoing emergency. Last but not least, the MIC performs a coordinating role by matching the offers of assistance from participating states to the needs of the disaster-stricken country.
A training and exercise programme has also been set up to improve the coordination of civil protection assistance missions by ensuring that intervention teams from the participating states provide assistance that is compatible and complementary. It also enhances the skills of experts involved in civil protection assistance operations through the sharing of best practices. In addition the Commission organises the exchange of experts from participating states.
What role do experts play?
When required, the MIC also deploys civil protection experts who have been seconded by participating states, mainly to operations outside the European Union. These experts have been trained by their national authorities and have also received training from the European Commission. Their tasks are set out in a brief that is specific to each new emergency. Generally speaking, however, their main role is to act as a link or liaison between the civil protection assistance from the participating states, the MIC and the recipient country. They are, in effect, the MIC's "eyes and ears" in the field. In certain situations, the MIC also deploys technical experts. In 2009, for example, earthquake engineers were sent at the request of the Italian authorities to assist with building assessments after the earthquake in L'Aquila.
Who pays for the assistance?
According to the implementing rules of the Mechanism, the state requesting assistance shall bear the costs of assistance provided by the participating states.
However, the participating state providing assistance may, bearing in mind the particular nature of the emergency and the extent of any damage, offer its assistance entirely or partially free of charge. In practice, the majority of participating states offer assistance free of charge as a gesture of solidarity.
Since 2007, up to 50% of the costs of transporting assistance can be co-financed by the European Commission under the Civil Protection Financial Instrument.
What is the European Union doing on disaster prevention?
In the area of civil protection the European Commission is taking an integrated approach to disaster management including prevention, preparedness and response. In 2009, it published a Communication on a 'Community approach to the prevention of natural and man-made disasters'. The Communication aims at (1) improving the knowledge base on disasters, their impacts and their prevention, (2) linking the diversity of players that should be involved in disaster prevention, (3) spreading and stimulating the uptake of good practice, (4) making existing financial and legislative instruments perform better for disaster prevention. The Council has provided the Commission with a strong mandate to take this work forward, notably in the field of risk assessment and mapping.
In addition to the prevention work in civil protection, the EU has over the years developed various legislative and financing instruments to support and complement Member State initiatives in disaster prevention. These include legislation addressing floods and industrial accidents. Under the cohesion policy, €5.8 billion has been directly allocated to risk prevention measures in the 2007-2013 programming period. Financial support for prevention actions can also be provided through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, LIFE+, the ICT Policy Support Programme and the Research Framework Programme.
What is the budget for civil protection?
In 2010, the civil protection budget is €26 million. This covers, among other things, training, exercises and co-financing of transport of assistance. In addition, €7.5 million have been made available this year to carry out a Preparatory Action on an EU Rapid Response Capacity, testing new arrangements for an effective and fast EU disaster response.
Training: €5 million; Exercises: €2 million; Modules: €2 million
Preparedness projects: €1.35 million; Prevention projects: €1.7 million
Transport inside EU: €1.83 million; Transport outside EU: €6.66 million
Early Warning Systems: €1.13 million
+ Smaller actions
What are the future priorities for civil protection?
In its 2010 work programme the European Commission announced a Communication on the EU disaster response capacity. The Commission is also reviewing the existing civil protection legislation. The review will assess the effectiveness of support through the Financial Instrument and the Mechanism.
Where can I find more information?
More information on the Mechanism and current and recent emergencies:
European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA): http://www.emsa.europa.eu
Civil protection is just part of the work done carried out by the European Union in relation to disasters. If the emergency occurs outside the European Union, the EU may also be providing humanitarian aid in the affected country. Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection are both under the responsibility of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, ensuring close coordination of all available resources.
Humanitarian aid: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm
Commissioner Georgieva website: