What is it?
The European Commission upgraded the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and created rescEU to further protect citizens from disasters and manage emerging risks.
rescEU was established as a reserve of European capacities, fully funded by the EU. It includes a fleet of firefighting planes and helicopters, medical evacuation planes, and a stockpile of medical items and field hospitals that can respond to health emergencies.
The rescEU reserve also includes shelters, transport and logistics assets and energy supply items.
Reserves are also being developed to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) risks. These include decontamination and detection, as well as reserves of CBRN medical countermeasures.
Why is this important?
The EU plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond. Disasters have affected every region of Europe in recent years, causing hundreds of casualties and billions in damage to infrastructure and the environment.
Epidemics, flash floods, storms, forest fires, earthquakes, and human-induced disasters continuously put pressure on the countries’ response capacities. Additionally, security concerns have become more complex and climate change is expected to worsen the impact of disasters in the future.
Conflict on the European continent, extreme weather conditions and emerging threats, such as COVID-19, have overwhelmed the ability of Member States to help each other, especially when several countries simultaneously face the same type of crisis.
In such cases, when Member States require a boost to provide a strong response to crises, the EU provides an extra layer of protection. Through the rescEU reserve, the EU ensures a faster and more comprehensive response.
How are we helping?
When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the possibilities of a country to respond on its own, it can request assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Once activated, the EU channels assistance from EU Member States and 10 participating states through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre.
To guarantee an even more effective response to disasters, the rescEU reserve was established in 2019 as an additional layer of protection.
War in Ukraine
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related medical needs for Ukrainians inside the country and the whole region, the EU has deployed medical evacuation services as well as assistance from its rescEU medical, energy and shelter stockpiles hosted in various locations across the EU.
The rescEU deliveries include medical items such as (i) ventilators, (ii) infusion pumps, (iii) patient monitors, (iv) masks and gowns, (v) ultrasound devices, (vi) oxygen concentrators, (vii) antidotes, (viii) potassium iodide tablets, (ix) decontamination supplies, (x) gas masks, (xi) chemical detectors, and more.
It also encompasses generators to help Ukrainians with their basic needs and thousands of shelters to host people in different regions.
This is the largest and most complex EU civil protection operation since the creation of the Mechanism in 2001. This assistance comes on top of aid offered by European countries and is coordinated under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
The EU has established a medical reserve to respond more quickly to medical needs caused by health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine.
The reserve enables the swift delivery of medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. More than 3 million protective masks, ventilators, and other equipment from the strategic rescEU distribution centres were distributed to countries that needed them most.
The stockpile is hosted in 10 EU countries (Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, and The Netherlands). More medical and personal protective equipment is constantly bought to refill the rescEU reserve and new stockpiles are foreseen to be developed.
In March 2022, a rescEU “MEDEVAC” capacity for highly infectious diseases’ patients became operational and has also been used in the context of the war on Ukraine.
More recently, the EU awared a grant to a consortium of 7 Member States and 1 participating state of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The aim is to develop, in the coming years, emergency medical teams to provide spcialised critical care in case of disasters.
To strengthen the EU response to wildfires, the Commission finances the stand-by availability of a rescEU firefighting fleet. Following several record-breaking wildfire seasons in Europe, rescEU is being reinforced to make available more aerial means every year.
The Commission decides jointly with relevant Member States on the deployment of these resources. This comes on top of other measures under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, such as the use of prepositioned ground teams to ensure a prompt response in wildfire prone countries.
In parallel, the Commission is also financing the development of a more ambitious future rescEU permanent fleet composed of medium amphibious planes and helicopters.
The Commission is developing strategic capacities to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear disasters (CBRN). People may be exposed to CBRN agents due to unintentional disasters or intentional attacks.
rescEU decontamination capacities are currently being developed and will boost the capacity of the EU to decontaminate infrastructure, vehicles, buildings, critical equipment and affected people.
These capacities will also be able to be pre-deployed ahead of high-visibility events or major public events, such as the Olympic Games.
rescEU CBRN stockpiles have gradually been made available and focus on medical countermeasures and response equipment. Selected medical countermeasures and equipment have already been mobilized in the context of the war on Ukraine.
rescEU detection, sampling, identification, and monitoring resources will be developed starting in 2023 and will represent a key additional feature to increase the level of preparedness.
Access to emergency shelter helps people to have a safe and secure place to live in the aftermath of a disaster or emergency.
rescEU has created reserves of high-quality emergency shelter units such as light prefabricated structures, flat-pack containers and emergency tents.
The living units are complemented by other facilities such as showers and toilets, industrial or self-catered kitchens, laundry and communal areas, with special attention paid to creating safe spaces for children and the most vulnerable.
Accessibility is also an important aspect, including 15% of units adapted for people with mobility issues. This shelter reserve will be hosted by 6 Member and participating states, and it will be strategically stored across the continent for possible deployment in a range of different settings and scenarios.
An emergency shelter capacity was also rapidly developed in 2022 to support people affected by the war on Ukraine. It was later deployed to host population who lost their homes after the earthquakes in Türkiye. This reserve was composed of light prefabricated structures, tents, beds and other shelter items deployed to assist the affected population.
The need to strengthen the transport and logistics resources under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism became evident in many recent EU civil protection operations.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about challenges for the transport of medical assets, vaccines, personnel, and patients, including in contexts with high security risks.
This reserve, still under development, will encompass 2 planes able to transport people, for example during consular evacuations and repatriations, and cargo whenever needed.
A dedicated asset will also focus on the evacuation of medical patients.
Be it about powering shelter units or critical infrastructure after a natural hazard or conflict, energy is a basic need irrespectively of the scenario at stake.
To ensure the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is well equipped for future purposes, we created a reserve of emergency energy supply assets under rescEU. Its main task is to provide emergency backup power under different emergency scenarios.
The rescEU energy reserve is comprised of thousands of generators of different sizes. These range from smaller sizes, capable of powering single households, to much larger models suitable for keeping public buildings and vital community services running such as hospitals and central heating points.
In the context of Russia’s war on Ukraine, rescEU has deployed generators to Ukraine, for instance, helping hospitals in ensuring basic services.
Facts & figures
rescEU is an extra layer of citizen protection in Europe, integrated into the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
rescEU strengthens European preparedness for disasters.
It boosts capacities to respond to crises in Europe, such as:
- medical emergencies
- chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents
- mobile shelters
- emergency transportation
- electricity supplies.
To strengthen the EU response to health emergencies, medical stockpiles in 9 EU Member States allow for a quicker reaction to health crises.
rescEU is 100% EU-financed, including costs for purchase, operation, and maintenance.
Last updated: 27/09/2023