The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM)

The legal foundations of cooperation in civil protection in Europe were established in 2001 (Council Decision 2001/792/EC, Euratom), recast in 2007 (Council Decision 2007/779/EC, Euratom), and further revised in 2013 in Council Decision No 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM).[1]

The UCPM aims to strengthen cooperation in the field of civil protection, with an emphasis on disaster prevention, preparedness, and response. To this end, the UCPM pools response capacities and capabilities from the EU member states and six further participating states (Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey), all of which commit national resources for emergency responses. Deployment of these capacities and capabilities can take place inside the European Union as well as outside of it, i.e. around the world.

The general objective and scope of the mechanism as described in Article 1 of the European Parliament and of the Council Decision on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism asserts, in the context of protection:

Article 1(2): The protection to be ensured by the Union Mechanism shall cover primarily people, but also the environment and property, including cultural heritage, against all kinds of natural and man-made disasters, including the consequences of acts of terrorism, technological, radiological or environmental disasters, marine pollution, and acute health emergencies, occurring inside or outside the Union. In the case of the consequences of acts of terrorism or radiological disasters, the Union Mechanism may cover only preparedness and response actions

In the context of the UCPM’s promotion of cooperation and solidarity between member states, the scope of the UCPM is stated as follows:

Article 1(3): The Union Mechanism shall promote solidarity between the Member States through practical cooperation and coordination, without prejudice to the Member States’ primary responsibility to protect people, the environment, and property, including cultural heritage, on their territory against disasters and to provide their disaster-management systems with sufficient capabilities to enable them to cope adequately and in a consistent manner with disasters of a nature and magnitude that can reasonably be expected and prepared for.[2]

Since its establishment in 2001, over 300 requests for assistance have been responded to by and through the UCPM. The rationale behind the mechanism is that a joint approach and coordinated joint response leads to a stronger, faster, and more reliable collective response to disasters.[3]

Assistance through the mechanism is mobilized and coordinated through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), the mechanism’s operational centre. Operational around the clock, the ERCC organises and coordinates the response operations and available resources, such as “relief items, expertise, civil protection teams and specialised equipment”.[4]

Overall, the UCPM assists in prevention and preparedness activities and efforts of the participating states, and facilitates the exchange of best practices. In March of 2019 the UCPM established a new European reserve of capacities, known as „rescEU reserve“,[5] in order to complement existing national capacities and to further improve disaster prevention and preparedness. Thereby the EU is strengthening the mechanism in preparation for future emergencies, also taking into account a need for further fire-fighting and CBRN measures.[6]

Out of 224 requests for assistance between 2002 and 2015, 63% of the requests related to disasters outside of the EU. See graphic below for numbers of requests inside and outside of the EU per year:

 

 

 

 

 

 [7]

 

Examples of UCPM assistance include the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014), the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018), the conflict in Ukraine (2014), the earthquake in Nepal (2015), the refugee and migration crisis in Europe (2015) and forest fires in the Mediterranean region (2017) and in Sweden (2018).[8]

In terms of public perception of EU civil protection activities, a survey by TNS opinion & social at the request of the European Commission examined public awareness of and support for EU disaster preparedness in the 28 member states of the EU in 2016. The survey found that 55% of EU citizens were aware of EU efforts to coordinate disaster responses, whilst 42% were not. A considerable majority (89%), equating to almost nine in ten, noted that they would expect EU assistance in the event of a disaster in their country. Similarly, 86% of those surveyed held the view that the EU ought to offer assistance to any country in the world experiencing a disaster, providing experts and equipment in a coordinated effort.[9]

56% of survey participants believed that their own country did not possess sufficient means to address all major disasters by itself, and 49% of respondents did not feel that enough was being done at regional level or in their own country to adequately prevent or prepare for disasters. [10]

Notably, 87% believe that there should be a civil protection policy at EU level, and, likewise, there was a considerable consensus that any EU action should be coordinated (81%).[11]

It is against this background that activities in the field of civil protection that aim to further advance cooperation in the prevention of, preparedness for, and response to disasters appear both timely and relevant.

The IN-PREP system intends to enhance preparedness in civil protection at both an inter-agency and cross-border level, generating greater organisational synergy among agencies responsible for responding to crisis through its Mixed Reality Preparedness Platform (MRPP). The use of the MRPP in disaster response planning, inter-agency training and cross-border collaboration allies with the objectives of the UCPM to promote and strengthen cooperation and solidarity between Member States.

 

[1] see “2001/792/EC,Euratom: Council Decision of 23 October 2001 establishing a Community mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions”, Council of the European Union, 2001, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32001D0792, accessed 05/09/2019; “2007/779/EC,Euratom: Council Decision of 8 November 2007 establishing a Community Civil Protection Mechanism (recast)”, Council of the European Union, 2007, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32007D0779(01), accessed 05/09/2019, and “Decision No 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism”, Council of the European Union, 2013, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013D1313, accessed 05/09/2019

[2] “Decision No 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism”, Council of the European Union, 2013, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013D1313, accessed 05/09/2019

[3] “EU Civil Protection Mechanism”, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/civil-protection/mechanism_en, accessed 04/09/2019

[4] “Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC)”, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/civil-protection/emergency-response-coordination-centre-ercc_en, accessed 06/09/2019

[5] “rescEU”, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/civil-protection/resceu_en, accessed 04/09/2019

[6] “Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on propgress made and gaps remaining in the European Emergency Response Capacity – COM/2017/078”, DG-ECHO, European Commission, 2017,https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/6bbcbde6-f502-11e6-8a35-01aa75ed71a1/ language-en, accessed 03/09/2019, p. 5ff, see also “Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism – COM/2017/0772”, European Commission, 2017, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri= CELEX:52017PC0772, accessed 04/09/2019, and “Interim evaluation of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, 2014-2016 – Final Report”, DG-ECHO, European Commission, 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/sites/echo-site/files/ucpm_final_report.pdf, accessed 04/09/2019

[7] “Union Civil Protection Mechanism: the coordination of responses to disasters outside the EU has been broadly effective – Special Report No 33/2016”, European Court of Auditors, 2016, https://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR16_33/SR_DISASTER_RESPONSE_EN.pdf, accessed 04/09/2019, p. 11

[8] “EU Civil Protection Mechanism”, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/civil-protection/mechanism_en, accessed 04/09/2019

[9] “Eurobarometer survey on Civil Protection”, Special Eurobarometer 454 – May 2017, TNS Opinion & Social, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/sites/echo-site/files/sp454_report_final_may_2017.pdf, accessed 05/09/2019, p. 5, p. 11

[10] “Eurobarometer survey on Civil Protection”, Special Eurobarometer 454 – May 2017, TNS Opinion & Social, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/sites/echo-site/files/sp454_report_final_may_2017.pdf, accessed 05/09/2019, p. 11, p. 27

[11] “Eurobarometer survey on Civil Protection”, Special Eurobarometer 454 – May 2017, TNS Opinion & Social, https://ec.europa.eu/echo/sites/echo-site/files/sp454_report_final_may_2017.pdf, accessed 05/09/2019, p. 11

 

This blog on the Union Civil Protection Mechanism is by Dr. Pia Nottebaum (DHPol).

Dr. Pia Nottebaum is a researcher in the Police Crisis Management unit at the German Police University (DHPol). She is a political scientist with a background in international relations, conflict, and security studies. The unit’s focus lies on police operational training in the context of crisis and disaster management, civil protection and cooperation and collaboration with other rescue and emergency services. The DHPol supports the IN-PREP exercises and demonstrations with a specific focus on the definition of the evaluation protocol and key performance indicators (KPIs). They support the end-users/stakeholder recruitment process and the collection of end-user requirements and contribute to the final IN-PREP evaluation and the project Handbook.

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