The European Parliament has agreed to boost the EU’s civil defence mechanisms to enable Member States to respond promptly to natural and manmade disasters.
The new legislation, which received the informal approval of the European Council in December 2018, establishes a reserve of resources to be known as “RescEU”. The reserve is to be deployed, under the oversight of the European Commission, when Member States experience a disaster which they do not have the full capacity to address; and will include such resources as fire-fighting planes, high-pressure pumps, emergency medical teams and field hospitals. As a corollary, the European Union Civil Protection Network is to be strengthened in order to enable cooperation and coordination between civil protection professionals and volunteers.
Under the current Civil Protection Mechanism, participating Member States make voluntary contributions which are then collated and allocated by the EU when a Member State requests assistance. As climate change causes extreme weather events become more common, the mechanism has become stretched and Member States’ ability to help each other has become limited – particularly when multiple countries suffer disasters concurrently. The EU currently lacks a reserve capacity to help its members if little or no voluntary support is available.
Lead MEP Elisabetta Gardini said: “We managed to work quickly to be ready before next summer and avoid another Greece 2018 [the second deadliest wildfire event of the 21st century, which left 100 people dead] and Portugal 2017 [where wildfires injured 204 people and killed 66, the largest wildfire-related loss of life in Portugal’s history]. Effective means and tools were needed to save lives. Principles of solidarity and protecting the safety of our citizens guided the work to success.”
The civil defence legislation will come into force once it has received the final approval of the Council of Ministers; and is set to be fully applicable by summer 2019.