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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
News article20 February 2023Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety3 min read

Croatia, France and Poland join EU's strategic reserves for chemical, biological and radiological emergencies

2 persons unloading goods from a truck
© Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e.V., 2023.

To improve the EU preparedness and response to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats, the Commission is building strategic reserves of response capacities through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). Today, Croatia, France, and Poland have joined Finland in hosting the rescEU stockpiles worth in total €545.6 million.

The reserves will include antidotes, antibiotics, vaccines, sedatives, and prophylactic treatments and specific CBRN response equipment, such as detectors and decontamination supplies and personal protective equipment (e.g., gas masks and protection suits).

The establishment of the four stockpiles represent a cross-sectoral cooperation between the EU's health and civil protection authorities. Once established, Member States will be able to request the mobilisation of relevant stock via the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)

In parallel, the Commission has just launched an additional call for proposals for a total value of €636 million focusing this time on the response to pathogens with pandemic potential, CBRN threats and antimicrobial resistance.

Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: “I thank all 4 Member States for their commitment to strengthening the EU’s CBRN resilience. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine points very clearly to the need to enhance the EU preparedness to CBRN risks by securing an adequate and effective response at EU level under rescEU.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Today's rescEU CBRN stockpile, funded through the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, will strengthen the EU's health security and preparedness. We have identified CBRN as a priority health threat to prepare against at EU level. Medical countermeasure must be available swiftly should a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat become reality. This is an essential part of a strong European Health Union.”


People may be exposed to CBRN agents as a result of unintentional disasters (e.g. a chemical plant leak, nuclear power plant incidents, the spread of an infectious disease) or intentional incidents (e.g. a terrorist attack).

Moreover, Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine further stressed the need for strategic stockpiles of accessible critical medical countermeasures and CBRN response equipment to protect EU citizens, in particular in case of CBRN attacks or accidents.

Through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, CBRN in-kind assistance was mobilised from 26 Member States and from existing rescEU strategic reserves. This included chemical detectors, radiometric instruments, decontamination, and personal protective equipment in addition to therapeutics such as potassium iodide tablets and antidotes.

However, the pandemic highlighted the lack of reserve capacities of essential medical countermeasures, such as PPE. Emerging threats, such as the coronavirus, but also CBRN incidents may overwhelm the ability of EU Member States to help each other, especially when several European countries face the same type of disaster simultaneously.

The stockpiles are overseen by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union and a fundamental asset to strengthen the EU's health emergency response and preparedness. A core goal of HERA is to ensure the development, manufacturing, procurement, and equitable distribution of key medical countermeasures to address any possible gap in its availability and accessibility.

In July 2022, HERA presented a priority list of top-3 health threats that require coordination of measures at EU level in the context of medical countermeasures. 

These 3 threats which have the potential of spreading across Member States are: (i) pathogens with high pandemic potential, (ii) chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, and (iii) threats resulting from antimicrobial resistance. The present establishment of strategic reserves is a direct response to the 2nd threat identified.

rescEU provides an extra layer of protection and ensures a faster and more comprehensive response to disasters. These reserves are 100% EU-financed and the EU Commission maintains, in close cooperation with the countries hosting the reserves, control of their operation.

In an emergency, rescEU strategic reserves provide assistance primarily to EU Member States and participating states in the European Civil Protection Mechanism.