Covid-19: boosting the EU’s response capacity for emergencies 

EU-coordinated response to earthquake and flash floods in Albania  

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism will be strengthened to equip the EU to respond effectively to emergencies, including medical ones such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund helps EU countries respond to emergencies and disasters. It has been activated to help in earthquakes, fires, floods and most recently to gather the necessary medical equipment to combat Covid-19 and evacuate EU citizens stranded around the world by the coronavirus outbreak.

Check out the timeline of EU measures to fight Covid-19 and mitigate its impact.

Aiming to fill the gaps revealed by the pandemic crisis, the European Parliament wants to increase preparedness and response to disasters at EU level.

In a vote on 16 September 2020, the European Parliament adopted its position on the revamped EU Civil Protection Mechanism, welcoming the significant increase of the EU's allocated budget for 2021-2027, as proposed by the European Commission.

MEPs called for more clarity about how funds are split between prevention, preparedness and response. The Parliament said a significantly larger amount should go to preparedness, including the purchase of the necessary supplies to help EU countries efficiently manage future health crises, similar to the Covid-19 pandemic.

EU defence mechanism to save lives

Since its creation in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, a collaborative system of mutual aid, has been activated more than 330 times to respond to natural and man-made disasters, inside and outside the EU, such as forest fires, floods, marine pollution, earthquakes, hurricanes, industrial accidents and other emergencies, including health crises.

During the current coronavirus outbreak, the Mechanism was used to support member states and national health systems, by coordinating the delivery of emergency medical supplies and personal protective equipment in Europe and around the globe. . It also helped to repatriate more than 82,000 EU citizens to Europe from all over the world.

Strengthening emergency response capacity

When an EU country is overwhelmed by a disaster, it can ask for help via the Mechanism. The Commission coordinates the response and covers at least 75% of the transport and operational costs.

In 2019, the EU developed a new European reserve of additional capacities called RescEU to directly assist when the resources deployed by member states are not enough.

In mid-March 2020, during the pandemic outbreak, medical stockpiling was also included as part of RescEU to help countries facing shortages of equipment. The rules backed by Parliament allow the EU to cover up to 100% of the funds needed for the deployment of the RescEU capacity, which is to be hosted by one or several member states.

Drawing lessons from the pandemic, MEPs want to allocate a larger amount of the funding to preparedness in the 2021-2027 programme, including funds to purchase needed new RescEU equipment and materials, such as forest fire-fighting planes, special water pumps, field hospitals, special medical equipment and resources to better assist EU countries when national capacities are overstretched.

Next steps

Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with the Council of Ministers to allow the upgraded system to become operational as of 2021.