After late response, European Commission announces strengthening of civil protection mechanism

The Commission proposed last week the creation of rescEU, a reserve at European level of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams.

These will complement national assets and will be managed by the European Commission in order to support countries hit by disasters such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics. Alone in 2017, over 200 people were killed by natural disasters in Europe and over one million hectares of forest have been destroyed.

The initiative follows scathing criticism by European President Jean-Claude Juncker against the late and insufficient response by EU´s Civil Protection Mechanism when wild fires ravaged Portugal last October. This mechanism is a voluntary system managed by the Member States and coordinated by the Commission.

All costs and capacities of the new organisation will be fully covered by EU financing, with the Commission retaining the operational control of its assets and deciding on their deployment.

In parallel, the Commission will assist Member States to boost their national capacities, by financing the adaptation, repair, transport and operation costs of their existing resources – whereas today only transportation costs are covered.

The assets will become part of a shared pool of emergency response resources under the European Civil Protection Pool, and would be made available for deployment when disaster strikes.

No date for the implementation of the new organisation is has yet been set. The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and Council. “We hope for a swift adoption so as to be ready to start as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told The Brussels Times.

At this stage there are no numbers on the size of rescEU and its resources. The idea is to locate them as close as possible to risk areas. They could also be located in hubs across Member States.

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