Geneva – The European Parliament today paved the way for stronger cooperation in responding to disasters by adopting new legislation on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism set to come into force at the beginning of 2014.
The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Ms Kristalina Georgieva, welcomed the vote, which she said would benefit Europe's citizens and communities globally.
“A rising trend in natural and man-made disasters over the past decade has demonstrated that coherent, efficient and effective policies on disaster management are needed now more than ever”. Ms Georgieva said.
“This vote brings us a step closer to a predictable and reliable civil protection system at the European level. This can mean the difference between life and death when a disaster strikes.
“Equally important, the revised legislative proposal includes measures that will help us prepare better for the upcoming disasters. Successful disaster management is first and foremost about providing security to our citizens.
"I would like to thank UNISDR (the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) for its support as a reliable partner in moving forward disaster risk reduction and prevention" the Commissioner said.
Member of European Parliament Elisabetta Gardini, Rapporteur of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism legislation in the Parliament said: "Today, the European Parliament voted in favour of a legislation that will make Europe and the wider world a safer place.
"EU Member states will be able to better coordinate preparation, prevention and eventually respond to disasters within Europe and globally. This is especially important in light of the upcoming Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the European Union's work in the field of disaster risk reduction with UNISDR."
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms. Margareta Wahlström said: "I congratulate the European Parliament for this significant achievement. The adoption of the legislation by the European Parliament of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism is anchoring disaster risk reduction actions in the EU member states towards a more disaster resilient Europe.
"This is also an important inspiration for other Regional Organisations that are working on supporting countries to strengthen their action on reducing disaster risk impact and building resilience of their communities."
The revised legislation on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which contains actions to be undertaken in relation to disaster risk reduction and building a culture of prevention, will ensure closer cooperation on disaster prevention, better preparedness and planning, and more coordinated and faster response.
Member States have agreed to regularly share a summary of their risk assessments, best practices, help each other identify gaps and to develop and refine their risk management planning in efforts to reduce disaster risk. A better understanding of risk is the basis for more effective disaster management.
In terms of civil protection, there will be more training available for personnel outside their home countries, more response exercises in areas such as search and rescue and field hospitals, more exchanges between experts and closer cooperation with neighbouring countries.
A new 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre was inaugurated in May 2013. It monitors the situation around the world and provides an information and coordination hub during emergencies.
A voluntary pool of Member States' response capacities and experts on stand-by will be established, with partial EU funding support, to enable more effective pre-planning, immediate deployment, and coordinated interventions.
The proposal also includes for the first time a common effort of Member States to assess and address gaps in response capacities with the help of EU seed financing of up to 20 per cent of necessary investment.
The Head of UNISDR's Regional Office for Europe Ms Paola Albrito welcomed the strengthening of EU legislation related to disaster risk management.
“The legislation which includes key actions related to disaster risk reduction such as developing national risk assessments and disaster risk management planning will further strengthen the joint collaboration in building resilience to disasters and encourages building a culture of prevention in member states in Europe,” Ms Albrito said.
The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response, preparedness, and prevention among 32 European states (EU-28 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).
Since its creation in 2001, the Mechanism has been activated over 180 times for disasters in Member States and worldwide, including Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, last month, when donated humanitarian assistance and relief items exceeded EUR 100 million.