The Union Civil Protection Mechanism has proven to be a useful tool to mobilise and coordinate the assistance provided by the Participating States, as tangible proof of European solidarity. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for better European Union preparedness for future large-scale emergencies while highlighting the limitations of the current framework. Therefore, CoR:
calls for significant strengthening of the emergency and disaster response capacities of the EU, with the involvement of national, local and regional emergency response structures as well as for the full involvement of local and regional authorities in the EU decision-making process;
emphasises that swift agreement on and adoption of the EU budget is of the essence for the EU to be better equipped to prepare for and respond to any future large-scale emergencies;
stresses that a long-term commitment and reinforcement is needed to further reinforce the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and its instruments, such as rescEU and the European Medical Corps.
On 10 May 2021, the Council adopted a regulation to strengthen the EU civil protection mechanism. The agreed text largely corresponds to what CoR supported in its opinion.
• The new provisions aim to strengthen the existing legal framework on civil protection and to ensure that the EU and the MS are better prepared to respond faster to large-scale emergencies (natural or man-made).
• The European Commission will be able to address gaps in the area of transport and logistics and directly procure certain additional rescEU capacities, allowing to react more quickly. These rescEU capacities (also those hosted by MS) will be fully financed from the EU budget.
• The Commission, in cooperation with MS, will define and develop EU disaster resilience goals in the area of civil protection to support prevention and preparedness actions with the aim to improve the EU’s and national capacity to withstand the effects of large cross-border disasters.
• A total of €1.263 billion still foreseen for UCPM for 2021-2027 and up to €2.056 billion from the EU recovery instrument to implement the civil protection related measures to address the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. This constitutes an increase of over three times as compared to the 2014-2020 budget.
• When rescEU resources are used for national purposes, EU action will be more visible and receive more recognition, as countries will be required to acknowledge that the financial resources deployed have come from the EU.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- notes that every crisis is a test of solidarity for the EU and its Member States, as most recently demonstrated by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and strongly believes in the need for a coordinated European response in the spirit of true solidarity between Member States, all levels of government and across borders;
- notes that while the COVID-19 outbreak put the current Union Civil Protection Mechanism to the test, the targeted changes must now aim to enhance and reinforce the Union Mechanism and enable both the EU and Member States to be better prepared and react quickly and effectively to future large-scale high-impact crises;
- reiterates its call for significant strengthening of the emergency and disaster response capacities of the EU, with the involvement of national, local and regional emergency response structures and respecting the subsidiarity principle under TFEU Article 196;
- supports the strengthening of the immediate and long-term capacity of the EU to react to emergencies while preserving local authorities' ultimate operational control, but emphasises that more flexibility is also needed for deployment of rescEU resources;
- welcomes the Next Generation EU instrument as one-off reinforcement but emphasises that long-term commitment and reinforcement is needed to further reinforce the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and its instruments, such as rescEU and the European Medical Corps;
- agrees that the Commission should be able to directly procure rescEU capacities to support Member States to alleviate the burden on Member States and enable the EU to intervene more rapidly to ensure the availability of strategic assets when the capacities of Member States are overwhelmed;
agrees that in addition to the availability of strategic assets, sufficient transport and logistical capacity, including multi-purpose aircraft services, in case of emergency is needed to be able to react quickly and deliver emergency assistance.