Revision of Decision 1313/2013/EU for a fully-fledged European Union Civil Protection Mechanism with own operational capacities

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For a brief overview of the key points of the adopted text and its significance for the citizen, please see the corresponding summary note.

The Union Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to improve the EU response to natural and man-made disasters inside and outside Europe. It is governed by Decision No 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council.

In the area of civil protection, the main responsibility for protecting citizens and the environment lies on the Member States. The EU coordinates, supports and complements national actions related to risk prevention, preparedness, and response to disasters. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is the operational hub of the UCPM that monitors emergencies 24/7. The European Emergency Response Capacity is a ‘voluntary pool’ of national resources which are pre-committed by the participating countries. It brings together rescue teams, trained experts, and specialised equipment ready to intervene when called upon by the Commission. The UCPM intervenes in different kind of emergencies: wildfires, floods, marine pollution, earthquakes, hurricane, and industrial accidents.

Today, the UCPM relies on a voluntary system of mutual assistance and on capacities offered by the Member States. However, the forest fires in 2017 and 2018 pointed out the limits of this approach to respond to increasingly complex and recurrent disaster events.

In November 2017, the Commission tabled a proposal amending the current legislation aiming to achieve three objectives:

  • Reinforcing the collective ability to respond to disasters and to address identified capacity gaps by creating a dedicated reserve of response capacities at EU level, rescEU, and enhancing the existing voluntary pool which will be known as European Civil Protection Pool (ECPP)
  • Strengthening the prevention and preparedness action as part of the risk management cycle and improving coherence with other EU policies dealing with disaster risk prevention and management
  • Simplifying the administrative procedures to ensure rapid access to assistance

On 31 May 2018, the European Parliament adopted amendments to the Commission proposal related to:

  • Flexibility of rescEU capacities, their additional role vis-a-vis the Members States capacities under the Pool, and the share of strategic and operational responsibilities for the command and control
  • UCPM field of action to be extended to terrorist attacks and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats
  • Regional and local dimension of the issue
  • Importance of Member States prevention and preparedness plans, especially in relation with investments and post-disaster reconstruction
  • Relation with other EU funds, such as the Solidarity Fund
  • Union financial support for national assets that are not pre-committed to the ECPP
  • Member States risk assessments that should also take into account the specific risks to wildlife and animal welfare

The Parliament also sought to ensure separate funding and budgetary allocations for the revised Union Mechanism.

The inter-institutional negotiations started on 4 September 2018 and provisional agreement between the Council Presidency and the European Parliament representatives was reached on 12 December. In February 2019, the MEPs approved the agreement by 620 votes to 22 and 35 abstentions.

According to the adopted text that amends the Commission proposal:

  • Member States retain primary responsibility for disaster prevention and response on their territory. The assistance provided by a Member State through the European Civil Protection Pool is complementary to existing national capacities. The Pool consists of voluntarily pre-committed response capacities and includes modules, other response capacities and categories of experts.
  • The role of rescEU is to respond to overwhelming situations as a last resort where existing capacities at national level and those pre-committed to the ECPP are not sufficient. The Commission identifies gaps, overall capabilities, and emerging risks at EU level, especially in the areas of aerial forest fire fighting, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents, and health emergencies, and defines, by means of implementing acts, the capabilities of rescEU. They are hosted by the Member States which acquire, rent or lease them. The Commission in close coordination with the concerned Member States decides for their deployment and demobilisation. The Union supports Member States by co-financing the development of rescEU capacities.
  • In terms of risk management, Member States further develop risk assessments and the assessment of risk management capability at national or appropriate sub-national level and provide the Commission with a summary of the relevant elements by 22 December 2019 at the latest. The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, can set up specific consultation mechanisms to enhance appropriate prevention and preparedness planning and coordination among Member States that are incline to similar types of disasters.
  • The Commission support Member States’ prevention actions by organising knowledge sharing, exchange of experience in risk management assessment, and prevention and preparedness planning.
  • A Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network, bringing together relevant civil protection actors and centres of excellence, universities and researchers, is set up. A training programme includes joint courses, exchange of expertise, as well as exchanges of young professionals and experienced volunteers. Research and innovation are stimulated.

The additional financial envelope for the implementation of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism in 2019 and 2020 has been set to EUR 205,6 million.

On 7 March 2019, the Council adopted the decision and it was formally signed by the Council and the European Parliament on 13 March. The new law was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 20 March and applies from 21 March 2019.


Further reading:

Author: Dessislava Yougova, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/11/2019.