EU unveils disaster relief proposals

Coordinated approach to cooperation will allow faster emergency response, better training

The European Commission today published proposals to create a common EU mechanism for coordinating civil protection and disaster intervention operations. The Commission said the plans, if endorsed, would help to reduce the impact of accidents such as this year's Erika oil spill off France and Baia Mare mine spill in Romania.

The proposals aim to ensure better coordinated and more efficient interventions inside and outside the EU, the Commission said. The central thrust of the plan is "pre-identification" of national civil protection teams on a joint database so that countries in need of particular types of aid could find them more rapidly. These teams could be mobilised within two to 24 hours of any disaster, it said.

Other plans include training programmes to improve the ability of teams to work together and the option of emergency team members being seconded to those in other member states. A "common emergency communication system" would also be set up so that countries were informed promptly of any accidents.

Today's proposals follow announcements earlier this year in the wake of a number of recent natural and man-made disasters (ENDS Daily 31 May). "Experience in recent years has shown that the present system lacks the capacity to mobilise significant and sufficient resources from member states and to coordinate intervention as required," an explanatory memorandum to the new proposal says.

The Commission says the new scheme could be funded at very low cost and hopes the Council of Ministers will approve it as early as next month. Once endorsed and implemented, on official said today, "we won't have to see the dysfunctional operations we've seen more than once in the Union."

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and press release. The text of the proposal should soon be posted here.

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