Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(00) 593

Draft Council Decision establishing a Community mechanism for the
co-ordination of civil protection intervention in the event of

Legal base: Article 308 EC and Article 203 Euratom; consultation; unanimity
Document originated: 27 September 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 29 September 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 27 October 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 10 November 2000
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  4.1  The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 agreed that a non-military crisis management mechanism should be established to "co-ordinate and make more effective the various civilian means and measures, in parallel with the military ones, at the disposal of the Union and the Member States" [Conclusion 28]. This area of work was flagged in the French Presidency's programme for external relations in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)[16], and there was an initial discussion of the Commission proposal at the JHA Council on 17 October.

  4.2  The proposal is intended to supplement the existing Community Action Programme in the field of civil protection[17], which may be merged with it.

The document

  4.3  The aim of the document is to establish an improved Community mechanism for co-ordinating responses to natural, technological or environmental disasters within or outside the EU. The Commission's Explanatory Memorandum gives examples of recent disasters, such as the oil spill off the coast of Brittany and the dam failures in the Danube catchment area. It outlines the present arrangements for dealing with such emergencies, and highlights the need for a more structured approach. The proposal specifies four key actions:

  •  the identification in advance of teams and other resources available in Member States for swift response in emergencies;

  •  the establishment of a training programme to help such teams work together;

  • the establishment of a mechanism whereby small assessment and co-ordination teams can be sent immediately to the scene of an emergency; and

  • the establishment of an emergency communication system between the relevant services in Member States and the Commission.

  4.4  The obligations to identify intervention teams (Article 3) and to notify the Commission and other Member States likely to be affected of an imminent, or actual, emergency (Article 2) are binding on Member States.

  4.5  The Commission's Explanatory Memorandum states that intervention outside the EU would cover rescue tasks and immediate humanitarian actions during the initial phase of a disaster, and would be undertaken in close co-operation with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO). It adds:

     "The strengthened civil protection mechanism could also contribute to the Union's overall non-military response to crises in third countries under the Common Foreign Security Policy".

The Government's view

  4.6  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) tells us that the Government welcomes the proposal, which will have no impact on UK law, and should result in little or no additional cost to the UK.

  4.7  She clarifies the legal base by explaining that under Article 3(1)(u) EC, measures in the sphere of civil protection are an objective of the European Community, and, under Article 2(b) Euratom, the establishment of uniform safety standards is an objective of Euratom.


  4.8  The proposal appears relatively straightforward to the extent that it addresses emergencies within the European Union. It is on less solid ground when it attempts to encompass external intervention. The only reference within the draft Decision itself is at Article 5(4), which reads "the provisions of this Article may also, upon request, be implemented in respect of interventions outside the Community." We therefore ask the Minister:

    (i)  whether she agrees that much sharper drafting is needed to spell out how these provisions would be implemented in respect of outside interventions;

    (ii)  how the proposed mechanism would "contribute to the Union's overall non-military response to crises in third countries under the Common Foreign and Security Policy";

    (iii)  whether the proposed legal base can cover external interventions, and, in particular, activities connected with the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

  4.9  We will keep the document under scrutiny until we receive her response.

16  (21484) 10135/00; see HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 32 (1 November 2000). Back

17  (19728) 14391/98; see HC 34-ix (1998-99), paragraph 12 (10 February 1999). Back

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