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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Civil protection

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European Union Civil Protection exercise in Austria: rescue teams looking for survivors of the disaster.
© European Union

What is civil protection?

Civil protection assistance consists of governmental aid delivered in preparation for or immediately after a disaster strikes in Europe and worldwide.

The aid provided takes various forms:

  • supplies (medicines, shelter items, water purification units, etc.)
  • specialised teams, such as firefighters or search and rescue teams
  • experts assessing and coordinating support right on the ground
  • repatriation of EU citizens

How does the EU provide civil protection assistance?

When a disaster overwhelms a country’s ability to contain it, it can request assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

All EU Member States, as well as 10 participating states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Türkiye, and Ukraine), are taking part in the Mechanism.

The EU also has a coordination hub to manage these requests for assistance. It is called the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).

The ERCC monitors emergencies around the world 24/7, 365 days a year, and stands ready to pool assistance from the participating countries in the Mechanism whenever needed.

In addition, the EU co-finances the transport and operational costs of the assistance provided through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Activations of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated more than 700 times. Below is an overview of the total requests for assistance per year, by country, and by type.

Map of activations of the EU civil protection mechanism

Prevention and preparedness

The EU works with national civil protection authorities also to support, complement, and coordinate their efforts in prevention and risk management planning.

In this respect, the EU:

  • is financing relevant prevention and preparedness projects
  • deploys experts on request to assess the risks
  • provides advice and support to local or national authorities
  • organise yearly meetings with Member States to discuss the challenges of the forest fire season in Europe, and to see how it can best accompany countries in their prevention and response efforts
  • draws lessons learned and elaborates good practices for prevention and preparedness activities.

In addition, the EU develops policies that focus on prevention and the reduction of disaster risks.

Did you know?

4 team members in front of a building
© European Union, 2022

In response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine in February, the European Commission is running its largest-ever operation under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Learn more