European Commission proposes to improve ability to respond to civilian disasters

“rescEU”, if approved, would establish a reserve force of air tankers and other firefighting equipment

Air Tankers at Dryden

Above: file photo of air tankers, mostly water scoopers, at Dryden (Ontario, Canada) Regional Airport in June, 2015 before they were dispersed around the province to deal with the rising number of wildfires. Photo by Chris Sherwin.

(Originally published at 11:01 a.m. MDT November 24, 2017)

The proposal would complement national assets and would 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.

President Jean-Claude Juncker said:

Europe can’t be on the side-lines when our Member States suffer from natural disasters and need help. No country in Europe is immune to natural disasters which have sadly become the new normal. When a disaster strikes, I want the European Union to offer more than condolences.

“rescEU” would create an EU civil protection response reserve of civil protection assets to assist Member States in responding to disasters, when national capacities are overwhelmed. rescEU would include assets, such as firefighting aircraft and water pumping equipment, to complement national capacities. All costs and capacities of rescEU would be fully covered by EU financing, with the Commission retaining the operational control of these assets and deciding on their deployment.

In parallel, the Commission would 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 would 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.

So far in 2017 over 200 people have been killed by natural disasters in Europe. Since 1980, as well as 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 is estimated at close to EUR 600 million, representing 0.34% of Portugal’s Gross National Income.

Since its establishment in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has monitored over 400 disasters and has received over 250 requests for assistance. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated in response to man-made and natural disasters, but also supports disaster preparedness and prevention.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism includes all EU Member States as well as several other participating states outside the EU, namely, Iceland, Norway, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. rescEU would be extended to these participating states as a sign of European solidarity.

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