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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations


What is it?

The European Commission upgraded the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and created rescEU to reinforce and strengthen components of the EU’s disaster risk management. It aims to both protect citizens from disasters and manage emerging risks.

rescEU establishes a new European reserve of resources (the ‘rescEU reserve’) which includes a fleet of firefighting planes and helicopters, medical evacuation planes, as well as a stockpile of medical items and field hospitals that can respond to health emergencies.

The EU is also developing a reserve to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents.

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 are continuously putting countries’ response capabilities under pressure. 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 face the same type of crisis simultaneously.

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.

The new legislative framework also leads to a stronger European Civil Protection Pool, as well as a better-strategised approach to training through a European Civil Protection Knowledge Network. In addition, it offers EU countries significant incentives to enhance their national capacities through additional financing to adapt, operate and repair their resources.

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 through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre the offers of assistance made available by its Member States and Participating States. To always guarantee an effective response to disasters, the rescEU reserve was established in 2019 as an additional layer of protection.

rescEU emergency assistance for Ukraine and neighbouring countries

Following the Russian aggression on Ukraine and related medical needs for Ukrainians inside the country and the whole region, the EU has deployed assistance from its rescEU medical stockpiles hosted in various locations across the EU.

The rescEU deliveries include duly needed medical items such as ventilators, infusion pumps, patient monitors, masks and gowns, ultrasound devices and oxygen concentrators. This assistance comes on top of aid offered by European countries and coordinated via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

This is the largest EU civil protection operation since the creation of the Mechanism in 2001.

A stronger EU response to COVID-19

As an additional safety net, the European Commission created a strategic rescEU medical reserve and distribution mechanism under the umbrella of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The reserve enables the swift delivery of medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment.

The stockpile, currently hosted by 9 EU countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia Sweden and The Netherlands), allows the EU to react to health crises more quickly.

More than 1 million of protective masks, along with ventilators and other equipment coming from the strategic rescEU distribution centres were distributed to countries who need them most. More medical and personal protective equipment is constantly being acquired to replenish the rescEU reserve.

EU preparedness for the 2022 forest fire season

For the forest fire season this year, the Commission finances the stand-by availability of a rescEU firefighting fleet. The aim is to address potential shortcomings in responding to forest fires.

Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden put together 12 firefighting planes and 1 helicopter at the disposal of other EU Member States in case of an emergency. The Commission decides jointly with these Member States on the deployment of the planes and helicopter

Supporting prevention and preparedness activities

The EU increased financial support also for capacities registered in the European Civil Protection Pool.

The financial support can be used for adaptation and repair of capacities, as well as to cover the operational costs (inside the EU) and transport costs (outside the EU) when deployed under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

The European Civil Protection Pool increases the predictability of the European response to disasters, ensuring that as many capacities as possible are operational before a disaster strikes.

Training, research and innovation, as well as close cooperation between national civil protection authorities, universities and researchers are essential elements for thorough prevention and preparedness activities across Europe.

Via the Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network, the EU is developing a new platform for sharing knowledge, best practices and lessons learned by civil protection experts and emergency management personnel. Through the Knowledge Network, the EU intends to strengthen its European Disaster Risk Management.

Finally, the upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism also streamlines and simplifies administrative procedures in the long run in order to reduce the time needed to reach people in need of assistance.

Last updated: 14/06/2022
Picture: European Union 2019

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, forest fires, medical emergencies or chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents.

To strengthen the EU response to COVID-19, medical stockpiles in 9 EU Member States allow for a quicker reaction to health crises.