Why is the Commission proposing to strengthen the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and rescEU?
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is a crisis management structure that allows Member States and Participating States to strengthen their cooperation in the field of civil protection, to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. It is based on voluntary contributions of Member States, with the European Commission playing a key coordinating and co-financing role.
The need for a more flexible, faster and reactive system to respond to large-scale emergencies is one of the lessons learnt from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rapid spread of the virus exposed some limitations in the current crisis management framework. At times when Member States are hit by the same emergency simultaneously and unable to offer each other assistance, the EU is currently unable to help quickly enough to fill these critical gaps as it does not have its own assets and has to rely on voluntary support from Member States.
A reinforcement and upgrade of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism – as requested by the European Council in March 2020 – is therefore necessary to avoid situations where Member States are left alone during crises.
What is the main objective of the proposal?
The Commission’s proposes to allow the EU and its Member States to be better prepared for and able to react quickly and flexibly to crises, in particular those with a high-impact given the potential disruption to our economies and societies.
Under the Commission’s proposal, the EU will be able to;
- directly procure an adequate safety net of rescEU capacities;
- use its budget more flexibly to be able to prepare more effectively and react faster in times of exceptional needs
- dispose of the logistical capacity to provide multi-purpose air services in case of emergencies and to ensure timely transport and delivery of assistance;
These strategic capacities will be supplementary to those of the EU Member States. They should be strategically pre-positioned in such a way as to ensure the most effective geographic coverage in response to an emergency.
In this way, a sufficient number of strategic assets will be available in order to support Member and Participating States in situations of large-scale emergencies and offer an effective EU-response.
What kinds of action will be financed under the proposal?
The upgraded EU Civil Protection Mechanism will equip the European Union with assets and logistical infrastructure that can cater for different types of emergencies, including those with a medical emergency dimension. This would allow the EU to:
- Acquire, rent, lease and stockpile identified rescEU capacities;
- Fully finance the development and the operational cost of all rescEU capacities as a strategic European reserve in case national capacities are overwhelmed;
- Enhance the funding for national capacities deployed under the European Civil Protection Pool to increase their availability for deployment;
- Ensure timely transport and delivery of requested assistance. This also includes internationally deployable experts, technical and scientific support for all types of disasters as well as specific medical equipment and personnel such as ‘flying medical experts’, nurses and epidemiologists.
How will EU humanitarian aid be enhanced under the new MFF?
The Commission proposes €14.8 billion for humanitarian aid, of which €5 billion come from the European Union Recovery Instrument to reinforce the humanitarian aid instrument.
The increased budget reflects the growing humanitarian needs in the most vulnerable parts of the world. The Humanitarian Aid Instrument will provide needs-based delivery of EU assistance to save and preserve lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and dignity of populations affected by natural hazards or man-made crises.
A significantly enhanced Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve will reinforce EU action in response to all aspects of the health crisis, as well as other emergencies. Funds can be channelled to provide emergency support as and when needed through EU instruments such as humanitarian aid in cases where funding under dedicated programmes proves insufficient.
Why is the Commission proposing to increase humanitarian aid budget?
Humanitarian crises in the world are increasing: In 2020, nearly 168 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection, a significant increase from 130 million people in 2018 (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). The needs are stemming from the conflicts, global refugee crisis, worsening natural disasters due to climate change.
The coronavirus pandemic further increases already existing humanitarian needs. It has a major health, social and economic impact on societies around the globe, in particular on the poorest countries. It is estimated that up to 265 million people worldwide could be under severe threat of hunger by the end of 2020 due to the effects of the pandemic (OCHA humanitarian needs overview 2020). This requires strong reinforcements to the humanitarian aid budget to meet the growing needs.
The EU adapted its humanitarian response in light of the needs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the impact of the pandemic and the economic fall-out, are compounding existing needs, making it all the more important that the Union is equipped to demonstrate solidarity with the rest of the world.