EU Civil Protection Mechanism helps countries confronted with overwhelming crises

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has become one of the most important instruments of international assistance in recent years. The Mechanism covers various natural and human-induced disasters, such as major accidents, chemical and environmental accidents, and response to the consequences of terrorist acts. 

Any country can request assistance via the Civil Protection Mechanism if the scale of an emergency or disaster exceeds their response capacity. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), operating under the European Commission, coordinates requests for assistance and the provision of assistance.

The assistance is based on national resources made available by the participating states. EU funding can be sought to upgrade these resources. The assistance may take the form of specialised rescue teams or expert and material assistance. The assistance is often provided to countries outside the EU.

Examples include evacuations from Afghanistan and a natural disaster in Madagascar. In 2020–2022, the Civil Protection Mechanism was used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and in February and March 2023, it was activated to help Türkiye and Syria deal with the earthquakes. The material assistance given to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism from February 2022 onwards is the largest and longest-lasting operation to date.

EU Civil Protection Mechanism must respond to increasingly complex threats

The best way to respond to unconventional, diverse and complex threats is through a system that facilitates smoothly running cooperation between public authorities and society at large. One example of such a system is the Finnish concept of comprehensive security, where public authorities, business and industry, organisations and citizens work together to secure the functions vital to society.

The Civil Protection Mechanism can be used to respond to a wide range of threats and global challenges. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the need for assistance in different sectors has only increased in Ukraine. Material assistance in healthcare, the education sector and rescue services will be needed for a long time. It is important to cooperate closely at the EU level when coordinating assistance to Ukraine. The Civil Protection Mechanism ensures that assistance reaches its destination.

As a result of climate change, temperatures in Europe have increased significantly and extreme weather events have become more frequent both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The Civil Protection Mechanism improves cooperation between European countries in the prevention of natural and human-induced disasters, preparedness and assistance activities.

Transnational cooperation in crisis preparedness is also becoming increasingly important. For example, CBRN threats (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats) know no borders and can affect several countries simultaneously.

rescEU is the EU's own reserve of resources

New legislation to strengthen the EU’s collective response to disasters with a system known as rescEU entered into force in 2019. rescEU was designed to enable Member States to respond to natural and human-induced disasters quicker and more efficiently. It improves the allocation of civil protection resources among Member States and other countries participating in the Civil Protection Mechanism.

The European Commission has granted funding for a project to establish a strategic reserve of protective equipment, measuring instruments, medicines and antidotes in Finland for CBRN incidents. The rescue equipment and medical supplies are intended to protect both first responders and the civilian population. The project will run until autumn 2026, and it has received EUR 242 million in funding from the Commission. The reserve to be established can be used through the Civil Protection Mechanism in situations where the scale of a CBRN incident exceeds the response capacity of the country requesting assistance.

The project is very significant in scale and the first of its kind. The Ministry of the Interior will carry out the project in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the National Emergency Supply Agency and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

Pauliina Eskola, Director of International Affairs (Department for Rescue Services), Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 295 488 263, [email protected]