New rules upgrading the EU's civil protection mechanism, which coordinates the EU's response to natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, oil spills or forest fires, were backed by MEPs on Tuesday. The deal, agreed with EU governments, provides more funding, streamlines the pooling of assets such as rescue teams and aircraft and makes it easier to intervene outside the EU.
“Today, we took small but concrete steps towards making our EU a safer place," said Elisabetta Gardini (EPP, IT), who is steering the legislation through Parliament, after her report was adopted by 608 votes to 75, with 10 abstentions.
"Within the mechanism, member states and the relevant authorities can work together, across borders, to better prepare for and respond to disasters in a more efficient and effective manner. The legislation occupies a realm of our work where the average EU citizen wants 'more Europe'," she added.
The civil protection budget for 2014 to 2020 is raised to €368.428 million, at current prices.
European countries will coordinate more closely in responding to disasters. They will also regularly share risk assessments, exchange best practice and jointly identify where additional efforts are needed, all of which should help boost disaster prevention.
Civil protection personnel operating outside their home countries will get more training and there will be more exercises to test response capacities, such as search and rescue teams and field hospitals.
A European Emergency Response Capacity will be created, replacing the current ad-hoc arrangements with a more predictable and reliable system.
An EU pool of stand-by rescue forces
A pool of stand-by response capacities and experts will be set up, supplied by member states on a voluntary basis and ready for immediate deployment in an emergency.
The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates co-operation in disaster response, preparedness, and prevention among 32 European states (the EU 28 plus the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). With the help of the European Commission, the participating countries keep each other informed of developments, needs on the ground and voluntary offers of assistance and pool some of their resources. When activated, the mechanism coordinates the provision of assistance inside and outside the European Union.
Since its creation in 2001, the mechanism has been activated over 180 times for disasters in member states and worldwide, including in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, last November.
The Council is expected to vote before the end of the month. The new legislation will come into force at the beginning of 2014.