Greater EU Civil Protection capacity needed in light of lessons from COVID-19 

Press Releases 
Plenary session 
 
 
  • EU must be able to own common equipment and directly assist member states when national capacities are overstretched 
  • Parliamentary oversight needed on amounts allocated to prevention, preparedness and response  
  • Negotiations must start immediately with Council for the new system to become operational as of 2021 
RescEU has already supported member states to save lives. MEPs now want to give it a stronger role. ©European Union 2020/EC/Piero Cruciatti  

Parliament calls for the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism to be enhanced so that the EU can better respond to large-scale emergencies such as COVID-19.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) has successfully supported member states to save lives, including during the COVID-19 crisis, by coordinating and assisting in civil protection efforts. Medical equipment such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, vaccines and therapeutics and laboratory supplies have also been procured through rescEU to support national health services during the pandemic. Just this week, it was used to channel further aid to refugees on Lesvos, following the fire in Moria refugee camp.

However, the pandemic has also shown that, when many member states are hit simultaneously by the same emergency, the way the current crisis management is set up has its limits. Parliament therefore wants to strengthen the EU’s role through the rescEU to ensure that member states are not left to rely on own assets and voluntary support when dealing with such emergencies.

More and transparent EU funding needed

In ongoing EU budget and recovery fund negotiations, Parliament has supported the significant increase in the budget proposed by the Commission.

Parliament, however, wants a significantly larger amount to be allocated to preparedness, including for the purchase of necessary new rescEU equipment, materials and resources to be better able to assist member states when national capacities are overstretched. This would make it possible to respond swiftly and effectively to large-scale emergencies or to events which rarely occur but which have a high impact, including medical emergencies such as COVID-19.

To be more transparent about the use of EU funding, MEPs also want to specify how money is allocated across the three pillars of the mechanism: prevention, preparedness and response.

You can watch the video from the debate here.

Quote

After the vote, Parliament’s rapporteur Nikos ANDROULAKIS (SD, Greece) said: “There is a need for more EU solidarity. With our proposals, we better protect and assist European citizens, no matter which member state they reside in, as we increase the co-financing rate to 100%, improve prevention actions and give the Commission the possibility to acquire, rent or lease the necessary capacities. Parliament is ready to start the negotiations. We want the Mechanism ready to address not only a possible second wave of the pandemic or forest fires but any other natural or man-made disaster in the future.”

Next steps

The report was adopted with 617 votes to 52 and 23 abstentions. Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states to allow the revamped mechanism to enter into force by January 2021.

Background

The Civil Protection Mechanism, set up in 2013, initially aimed to strengthen cooperation with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. When the sheer scale of an emergency overwhelms a country’s ability to respond, it can request voluntary assistance from other countries via the Mechanism.

In 2019, rescEU was created to enable the EU to directly assist member states hit by disasters when national capacities are overstretched. Its fire-fighting aeroplanes and helicopters have supported member states to save lives in the midst of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and forest fires and helped to evacuate EU nationals - including more than 75.000 EU citizens during the current COVID-19 crisis. Medical equipment such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and laboratory supplies have been provided through rescEU to support national health services during the pandemic.