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New disaster management legislation passed by the European Parliament

The European Parliament has voted to adopt new legislation on EU Civil Protection which paves the way for a stronger European cooperation in responding to disasters.

Welcoming the vote, Kristalina Georgieva, the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response said: "A rising trend in natural and man-made disasters over the past decade has demonstrated that coherent, efficient and effective policies on disaster risk management are needed now more than ever. This vote brings us a step closer to a predictable and reliable civil protection system at the European level. This can mean the difference between life and death when a disaster strikes. Equally important, the revised legislative proposal includes measures that will help to prevent and prepare better for the upcoming disasters. Successful disaster risk management is first and foremost about providing security to our citizens. I would like to thank the European Parliament for its strong support."

The revised legislation on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism is designed to better protect and respond to natural and man-made disasters. To ensure better prevention, the Member States will regularly share a summary of their risk assessments, share best practices, and help each other identify where additional efforts are needed to reduce the disaster risks. A better understanding of risks is also the departure point for planning an effective response to major disasters.

In the area of disaster preparedness, there will be more training available for civil protection personnel operating outside their home countries, more exercising of civil protection response capacities, more exchanges of civil protection and prevention experts and closer cooperation with neighbouring countries; all of which will improve the cooperation of Member States' teams on the ground.

The EU has provided the following Q and A update on the revisions to the EU Civil Protection legislation as approved by the European Parliament: (published verbatim)

How will the new legislation improve disaster risk management?

The revised EU's Civil Protection legislation integrates all aspects needed for a comprehensive disaster management policy: disaster prevention, disaster preparedness and improved response arrangements. To promote a culture of risk prevention, the new legislation will require the Member States to share a summary of their risk assessments and to refine their risk management planning. To better prepare for disasters, there will be more training available for civil protection personnel operating outside their home countries, more exercising of civil protection response capacities (such as search-and-rescue teams and field hospitals), more exchanges of civil protection and prevention experts and closer cooperation with neighbouring countries. For a stronger and more efficient response, the legislation envisages the creation of a voluntary pool of Member States' assets (teams, equipment) available for immediate deployment as part of a joint European intervention.

How will the voluntary capacity be triggered?

Member States will remain responsible for their assets while the Commission's role will be to facilitate and co-ordinate deployment on the ground. For each emergency, the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) will put together an immediate response plan, matching the capacities available from the voluntary pool with the needs on the ground. The ERCC will then call upon the Member States to deploy the needed capacities. The final decision to deploy will remain with Member States.

The new legislation also establishes the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). What is the ERCC's role?

The 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) was inaugurated in May 2013. The ERCC monitors the situation around the world. It is an information and coordination hub during natural and man-made emergencies. Besides monitoring, the ERCC ensures that Member States are fully aware of the situation on the ground and can make informed decisions for providing financial and in-kind assistance. It also manages a pre-identified register of Member States' standard response assets which can be deployed immediately to any large scale emergency.

By merging the Crisis Room for humanitarian crises and the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) for civil protection, the ERCC provides for an increased cooperation between the civil protection and humanitarian aid operations. It offers a coordination platform for the EU in major crises.

What other changes and improvements does the new legislation bring?

  • The EU will support the identification and filling of gaps in Member States' response capacities. The new legislation includes for the first time a common effort of Member States to assess if there are genuine gaps in the availability of response capacities all around Europe, and to address them with the help of EU seed-financing of up to 20% of the costs of necessary investments. It also allows the EU to make standby arrangements to cover temporary shortcomings in major disasters.
  • The sharing of risk assessments will allow foster the sharing of knowledge and experience across Europe and allow for better co-ordinated response, preparedness and prevention actions. Voluntary peer reviews are recognised as an essential element to improve the risk-management capability of Member States. An understanding of risks will become the starting point for developing contingency plans for a collective European response to major disasters. These plans will help us to exchange best practice and learn from each other in addressing these risks. They will help us identify where additional investments are needed in disaster prevention.
  • Transport arrangements for the immediate deployment of EU assistance will be simplified and strengthened. The EU will be able to reimburse the transport of the assets and teams responding to critical needs up to 85% of the costs. The new legislation will ensure the high quality of the assets co-financed by the EU

Next steps

The new legislation will come into force at the beginning of 2014. Together with the Member States, the Commission is currently elaborating the detailed implementing rules for the new legislation, to make sure that the new legislation can be applied in the most effective way by everybody.

•Date: 11th December 2013 • Europe / UK •Type: Article • Topic: Emergency planning

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