EU joint response to disasters: deal reached with Council
- Respond faster and better to disasters
- New RescEU assets (fire-fighting planes, high-capacity pumps, field hospitals)
- It will add to, not replace, national capacities
The aim of the new legislation, agreed on Wednesday, is to help member states to respond faster and more effectively to natural and man-made disasters, by sharing civil protection assets more efficiently.
The draft law would also set up, upon Parliament’s request, a “RescEU” reserve of resources, such as forest fire-fighting planes, high-capacity pumps, field hospitals and emergency medical teams, for use in all kinds of emergencies. RescUE will step in when the resources deployed by member states are not enough to respond to a disaster and following a decision by the European Commission.
Parliament and Council negotiators also guaranteed an extra 205 million euros for the 2019-2020 period, to ensure sufficient funding. Finally, MEPs succeeded in strengthening the European Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network to favour more exchanges between young professionals and civil protection volunteers.
Lead negotiator Elisabetta Gardini (EPP, IT) said: “We managed to work quickly to be ready before next summer and avoid another Greece 2018 and Portugal 2017. Effective means and tools were needed to save lives. Finding a compromise was more difficult than expected, but in the end the principles of solidarity and protecting the safety of our citizens guided the work to success”.
The agreement has now to be endorsed both by Parliament and Council before the legislation comes into force. The Environment Committee will vote on the text on 21 January.
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. In recent years, extreme weather conditions and other phenomena have stretched the ability of member states to help each other, especially when several member states face the same type of disaster simultaneously. In such cases where there is limited or no availability to provide support, the EU does not have a reserve capacity to assist overwhelmed member states.
Since 1980, in addition to the human cost, EU member states have lost over EUR 360 billion in weather and climate extreme events. In Portugal alone, the direct economic damage of forest fire events between June and September 2017 is estimated at close to EUR 600 million, representing 0.34% of Portugal's Gross National Income.
An upgrade of EU civil defence mechanism, tested to its limits by 2017 and 2018 forest fires, storms and floods, was informally agreed between MEPs and Council.