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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

The European Union: together we protect you from disasters.


Every year, forest fires place people’s lives at risk and have severe impact on the environment. In 2019, forest fires severely affected the Amazon, Australia and even the Arctic, in addition to yearly European hotspots, such as the Mediterranean. Lives were lost, livelihoods destroyed and many hectares of land burned. When the scale of a disaster overwhelms a country’s abilities to respond on its own, the European Union coordinates European assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, ensuring that help reaches people in time in the affected areas.

Some disasters are of such gravity that they stretch the ability of European countries to help each other – especially when several countries face the same type of disaster simultaneously. In 2019, the Mechanism was therefore upgraded and now includes an additional layer of protection: rescEU, a European reserve of capacities that ensures a faster and more comprehensive response to emergencies.

This communication campaign highlights to EU citizens how EU-coordinated European Civil Protection and rescEU activities support people in Europe and beyond when disasters hit.

What is Civil Protection?

Civil protection consists of assistance delivered by local or national governments in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and includes preventative measures to reduce the impact of future disasters. The EU coordinates such deployments and provides financial support when European countries are assisting each other in need.

This assistance can take different forms such as:

  • Forest and urban fire-fighting
  • Search and rescue operations
  • The deployment of medical personnel
  • Water purification
  • Temporary emergency shelter

European assistance to tackle forest fires in 2020

For this year’s forest fire season, the European Commission co-finances the stand-by availability of additional capacities to fight forest fires from the sky to address potential shortcomings in responding to fires. Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden put together 13 firefighting planes and 6 helicopters at the disposal of other EU Member States in case of an emergency. The strengthened system also sees greater investment in knowledge sharing and preparedness activities.

Find out more about European Civil Protection and how we coordinate the European response to disasters.