9 European disaster response: the role
of civil protection and humanitarian assistance |
|Commission Communication: Towards a stronger European Disaster Response: the role of civil protection and humanitarian assistance
|Document originated||26 October 2010
|Deposited in Parliament||2 November 2010
|Basis of consideration||EM of 15 November 2010
|Previous Committee Report||None
|To be discussed in Council||14 December 2010 General Affairs Council
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
|Committee's decision||Not cleared; further information requested
9.1 The Union has, since 2001, had a Civil Protection Mechanism
which seeks to strengthen co-operation between the EU and its
Member States in the event of major emergencies, such as a natural
or man-made disaster, acts of terrorism, or damage to the environment,
which occur within or outside the EU. Member States participating
in the Civil Protection Mechanism are required to identify in
advance intervention teams and any other forms of support which
may be mobilised in response to an emergency. A 24-hour Monitoring
and Information Centre serves as a communications hub for any
emergency relief operations launched under the Civil Protection
Mechanism, disseminates information (including early warnings)
and seeks to match offers of assistance to actual needs and identify
any gaps in aid.
9.2 The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)
makes clear that the principal responsibility for civil protection
rests with the Member States, but provides that the EU has competence
to "support, co-ordinate or supplement" their actions
(Article 6 TFEU). The Treaty establishes a specific new legal
base for civil protection Article 196 which states
that action by the Union shall aim to:
a) support and complement Member States' action at national,
regional and local level in risk prevention, in preparing their
civil protection personnel and in responding to natural or man-made
disasters within the Union;
b) promote swift, effective operational co-operation
within the Union between national civil protection services; and
c) promote consistency in international civil
9.3 There are two different Treaty Articles which
deal, respectively, with emergencies outside the EU and those
within the EU.
9.4 For internal emergencies, Article 222 TFEU
the "Solidarity clause" states that the Union
and its Member States "shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity"
and mobilise all available instruments to assist a Member State
(at its request) in the event of a terrorist attack or a natural
or man-made disaster. Arrangements for implementing the solidarity
clause are to be based on a proposal put forward by the Commission
and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
and must be adopted by unanimity if they involve the use of military
resources or have defence implications.
9.5 For external emergencies, Article 214 TFEU on
humanitarian aid provides for "ad hoc assistance and relief
and protection for people in third countries who are victims of
natural or man-made disasters, in order to meet the humanitarian
needs resulting from these different situations." EU operations
and those of Member States should complement each other and be
mutually reinforcing. The EU must also ensure that its operations
are co-ordinated and consistent with other humanitarian bodies,
notably those operating under the UN umbrella.
9.6 A new Commissioner has been created, whose portfolio
(held by Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva) brings together the
instruments for civil protection and emergency response, and which
will require close coordination with both the High Representative
of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President
(Baroness Catherine Ashton).
9.7 For humanitarian aid outside the EU, the Commissioner
will be responsible for the swift and effective delivery of aid
and the promotion of respect for international humanitarian law.
The EU's humanitarian grants cover emergency aid, food aid and
aid to refugees and displaced person, totalling more than 700
million per annum. The Commission's DG for humanitarian aid (widely
known as ECHO) also:
humanitarian projects and sets up coordination arrangements;
promotes and coordinates disaster prevention
gives its partners technical assistance;
finances network and training initiatives
in the humanitarian field.
9.8 For disaster response outside the EU, the Commissioner
will be able to draw on a range of EU instruments, including civil
protection assets provided by Member States.
9.9 The Commissioner will be supported in both tasks
by the EU Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which is run
by the Commission and is operational 24 hours a day. Any country
affected by a disaster, inside or outside the EU, can launch a
request for assistance through the MIC.
9.10 Commissioner Georgieva will also have a role
in supporting the Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs (Cecilia
Malmström), who will be responsible for crisis response within
The Commission Communication
9.11 Against this background and that of increasing
disasters both within the EU and internationally, the Commission
sets out proposals for EU action to build upon existing European
disaster response capacity, by enhancing its efficiency, coherence
and visibility. The proposals address the potential response to
disasters inside and outside the EU. They consider both civil
protection and humanitarian assistance in the context of Lisbon
Treaty provisions and a desire to achieve greater cost-effectiveness.
The main proposals concern:
of a European Response Capacity based on pre-committed assets
of Member States and on pre-agreed contingency plans;
pre-positioning of relief assets; improved
needs assessments; shared, more effective and more cost-effective
logistics; coordinated and cost-effective transport;
use of Member States' military assets
and Common Security and Defence Policy support for EU disaster
developing an enhanced 24/7 Emergency
Response Centre covering both intra-EU and external disaster preparedness
strengthening coordination with the UN,
the Red Cross and Red Crescent and international humanitarian
ways to present a more visible EU response.
9.12 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 15 November
2010, the Minister for Security at the Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones)
explains that she is responsible for cross-cutting resilience
policy and is supported in this role by the Cabinet Office's National
9.13 The Minister notes that civil protection is
a devolved matter under the UK's devolution settlements and the
Devolved Administrations have been consulted in the preparation
of her Explanatory Memorandum; as, too, have the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department for International
9.14 The Minister notes that the Communication is
not draft legislation referring to any specific legal base and
contains no legislative proposals. However, she notes that it
envisages legislative proposals in 2011 to implement its main
policy ideas, and makes reference to TFEU Articles on Civil Protection
(Article 196), Humanitarian Aid (Article 214) and the Solidarity
Clause (Article 222).
9.15 The Minister also notes that, if the Commission
brings forward legislative proposals under TFEU Articles 196 and
214, then these would require qualified majority voting in Council;
and that proposals with defence implications would require unanimity
in accordance with the TEU Article 31.
9.16 The Minister notes that the Commission's impact
assessment accompanying the Communication states that the difficulties
of multilateral cooperation among Member States demonstrate the
need for EU-level action and coordination to address disaster-related
time-critical situations with a strong transnational or multinational
component; that current arrangements do not appear to guarantee
sufficient European assistance; and that purely domestic action
cannot guarantee an effective, coherent and visible EU response
to disasters. She then says:
"However, the Communication's proposals for
EU-level action and for enabling a guaranteed response are not
sufficiently detailed to rule out future concerns over subsidiarity.
The Government's view is that the consistency of the Commission's
proposals with the principle of subsidiarity has yet to be examined;
and HMG will continue rigorously to uphold this principle."
The Government's view
9.17 The Minister considers what she describes as
the broad policy proposals, and set out the Governments views,
CREATION OF A EUROPEAN EMERGENCY RESPONSE CAPACITY
BASED ON PRE-COMMITTED MEMBER STATES' ASSETS AND PRE-AGREED CONTINGENCY
"The Commission proposes to move from the current
flexible if ad hoc civil protection response by developing
prior contingency plans based on reference scenarios for disasters
inside and outside the EU and on information about the response
assets which Member States could make available. It further proposes
to establish a pool of voluntarily pre-committed civil protection
assets, under national command and control, on-call for EU operations
unless needed for domestic emergencies; when not used for EU operations,
such assets would remain at full disposal for national purposes.
Further, where Commission contingency planning identifies capacity
gaps in Member States, then these could justify complementary
"HMG views with caution proposals to develop
contingency plans on the basis of reference scenarios drawn from
around the world and the response assets which Member States have
already declared as modules. Unless based on credible national
risk assessments, the reference scenarios would be unlikely to
reflect Member States' needs. The Commission is due to provide
in 2012 a cross-sector overview of major risks facing the EU based
on national risk assessments; and this might enable appropriate
EU-level contingency planning for disasters inside the EU.
"For disasters outside the EU, HMG would look
to ensure that any EU contingency plans were developed in conjunction
with the UN as the lead agency in humanitarian response.
"Government supports the principle of a genuinely
voluntary asset pool along the lines of the existing modules system;
but UK domestic disaster response assets are locally held and
often based on dual-use capability so we cannot pre-commit such
assets for EU deployment whether inside or outside the EU. HMG
would resist moves to prioritise EU operations over national purposes,
or to introduce a legal presumption that Member States will pre-commit
disaster response assets for EU operational deployment in any
way limiting their right to decide how such assets should be deployed
whether domestically or internationally.
"HMG also views with caution moves to develop
complementary EU-funded assets. Premature development of EU-funded
assets could discourage Member States from acting in accord with
the principle of subsidiarity, including where this would justify
cooperating with Member States sharing specified risks. However,
the Commission's planned 2012 cross-sector overview of major risks
and additional research might identify extreme large-scale and
low-probability events for which a case could be made for investment
in complementary assets. HMG would work to ensure that any such
assets were funded from existing EU budget lines.
PREPOSITIONING OF RELIEF ASSETS
"The Commission proposes a review of experience
of EU engagement with humanitarian partners and to explore options
for developing this approach; and to seek to use, where available,
Member States' existing pre-positioning systems in third countries.
"The UK currently prepositions some relief goods
in regional hubs in Dubai (for emergencies in the Middle East,
Asia and Africa), the Cayman Islands (for hurricane responses
in the Caribbean) and the UK. Prepositioning of goods and assets
is being reviewed as part of HMG's Humanitarian Emergency Response
IMPROVED NEEDS ASSESSMENTS
"The Commission proposes to support UN-led efforts
for joint, cross-sector and comparable needs assessments; to deploy
EU experts as liaison officers with the UN system; to increase
capacity of EU assessment teams including where necessary to fill
gaps in UN capacity; and to ensure adequate EU expert participation
in post-disaster needs assessments.
"In recent years, Member States' experts trained
in the Civil Protection Mechanism have deployed in response to
disasters as members of UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination
teams. HMG welcomes the continued strengthening of EU-UN cooperation
and will study any more detailed future proposals in this context.
SHARED, MORE EFFECTIVE AND MORE COST-EFFECTIVE LOGISTICS
"The Commission proposes to deploy Technical
Assistance and Support Teams (TAST) more systematically and to
guarantee their availability; to develop with the External Action
Service options for better TAST support to EU Delegations, consular
authorities and other EU and international actors in emergencies
outside the EU; and to seek to develop these arrangements into
an EU field coordination centre.
"We support efforts to look at how we can improve
aid logistics and will be examining this issue as part of HMG's
Humanitarian Emergency Response Review. HMG opposes any Commission
initiatives that appear to claim additional competence for the
EU institutions in the consular field. HMG believes that this
Commission paper reflects an aim to create single European Consular
teams designed to respond to mass casualty situations. This would
be outside the remit of the Treaties, which provide simply for
"support to Member States" in consular affairs. HMG
is satisfied that the current Treaty arrangements (where missions
of Member States present in a particular country provide consular
assistance to EU nationals whose states are not represented) work
well. In addition, the UK also supports the "Lead State"
principle, which applies in countries where there are few EU Member
State missions, and allows an EU Member State mission to take
the lead on evacuation, with the consent of other Member States
(e.g. the UK is the Lead State in St Lucia; France in Madagascar
COORDINATED AND COST-EFFECTIVE TRANSPORT
"The Commission proposes simpler and stronger
transport pooling and co-financing arrangements; private sector
engagement on options for commercial provision; fuller use of
the existing framework for military asset use and Common Security
and Defence Policy (CSDP) coordination tools; and continued support
for humanitarian and UN transport capacities.
"UK and other countries of the International
Humanitarian Partnership benefited from EU transport support during
the response to 2010 Pakistan floods. Pending detailed Commission
proposals, HMG welcomes the aim of simplifying current arrangements
for transport pooling and co-finance. The Commission's existing
contract with a private sector transport broker has assisted responding
countries in identifying potential transport solutions. HMG interprets
the Commission's proposal to engage with the private sector as
a welcome continuation of this practice.
"The 2006 framework for use of military or military
chartered transport assets in support of EU disaster response
was first used during the 2010 Pakistan flood response. The UK
benefited from this through two flights facilitated by the EU
Military Staff's Movement Planning Cell. It is unclear what the
Commission envisages by its proposal to make "full use of"
the agreed framework. HMG will examine future such proposals with
care when these are made.
"HMG welcomes the Commission's proposals to
support humanitarian organisations and the UN in developing appropriate
transport options. During the response to 2010 Pakistan floods,
the current instrument enabled the UK to obtain space for a British
Non-Governmental Organisation on another Member State's aid flight
USE OF MEMBER STATES' MILITARY ASSETS AND COMMON
SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY (CSDP) SUPPORT FOR EU DISASTER RESPONSE
"The Commission proposes to develop a new European
Emergency Response Centre (EERC; see below) which would be the
operational emergency relief interface with CSDP coordination
tools so as to match humanitarian needs on the ground with the
provision of Member States' crisis management assets.
"HMG recognises that military assets can play
a significant role in supporting disaster relief activities, but
stresses that these should be used only when there are no civilian
alternatives and that decisions are for national authorities acting
on a case-by-case basis. It is unclear how CSDP, as an outward-facing
part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), should
contribute to disaster response within the EU. The Communication
notes that specific proposals will be presented separately by
the High Representative and the Commission in due course.
"The UK has consistently argued against any
earmarking or pre-commitment of military assets for civil protection
tasks that might pre-judge national decisions to be made case-by-case
on whether or not to make assets available or to tie up hard-pressed
military capacity. HMG will continue to resist any proposals for
pre-commitment by Member States of military assets to EU disaster
DEVELOPING AN EMERGENCY RESPONSE CENTRE
"The Commission proposes that a new European
Emergency Response Centre (EERC) will combine the current Monitoring
and Information Centre (MIC) and ECHO crisis rooms. The new facility
would match crisis management assets to needs and identify Member
States' military assets potentially available to support the response.
Bringing together civil protection and humanitarian aid, the EERC
would operate around the clock, including in close collaboration
with services responsible for the Internal Security Strategy;
develop over time into a platform supporting other disaster-related
services; and establish working arrangements with the new External
Action Service. The Centre's role would mark a change from the
MIC's information-sharing and emergency response functions to
planning, monitoring, preparing, operational coordination and
logistical support. With this new role, the Centre would develop
reference scenarios for disaster types within and outside the
EU, and facilitate operational coordination with other EU actors.
"In terms of access to management and planning
arrangements, HMG supports the proposal for the new Centre to
be the Commission's operational interface with CSDP coordination
tools. However, implementing these proposals would significantly
alter the mandates of the existing MIC and DG ECHO crisis rooms.
HMG will examine future detailed proposals to change the mandates
when these are made.
"HMG welcomes the move to enhance practical
relations between EU civil protection and humanitarian assistance
arrangements within the wider context of post-Lisbon Treaty structures.
The Commission does not, however, currently have a mandate for
operational coordination of Member States' assets inside the EU
but can facilitate such coordination and liaise with the host
nation's competent authorities. A mandate for operational coordination
within the EU would seem to entail a degree of control over the
deployable assets of Member States. HMG would not support extending
the Commission's mandate in these terms.
"HMG views with concern the Commission's separation
of work on risk assessment from that on disaster reference scenarios.
High quality national risk assessment is an appropriate basis
for contingency planning.
"The Commission proposes to strengthen EU support
to UN coordination of humanitarian assistance including through
staff deployments and secondments; to use the EERC to streamline
EU-UN information flows; and to improve UN financial reporting
of EU assistance. The Commission also proposes nominating humanitarian
focal points linked to civil protection national contact points
in Member States; developing a web-based information tool; and
encouraging timely reporting by Member States of their humanitarian
"Government supports the central coordinating
role of the UN and is keen to ensure that the proposals outlined
support this role and the EU's relationship with the UN. HMG's
Humanitarian Emergency Response Review will touch on the UK's
relationship with other organisations such as the UN. The Government
supports efforts to enhance coordination and cooperation in the
fields of civil protection and humanitarian assistance.
A MORE VISIBLE RESPONSE
"The Commission proposes presenting a single
overall figure for EU emergency relief; working to ensure use
of EU symbols in conjunction with national badges in disaster
response assistance; exploring ways for partner organisations
to give adequate visibility to emergency assistance funded by
the EU; monitoring more closely the respect of existing funding
conditions; and considering appropriate branding of a strengthened
EU response capacity.
HMG would be cautious about any changes to the way
in which we brand aid; and whilst EU visibility can be important,
our priority will always be to optimise the delivery of practical
benefits through humanitarian assistance and civil protection."
9.18 Beyond the legislative aspects noted above,
the Minister says that the proposals are not sufficiently detailed
to assess their impact on business or civil society.
9.19 The Minister says that the financial implications
of the proposals are unclear and will depend on the nature of
anticipated new legislative proposals, and that the Government
considers that any agreed changes should be funded from within
existing EU budgetary provisions.
9.20 The Minister says that although the Communication
contains no specific regulatory proposals, the Government will
consult civil protection bodies on the general proposals as appropriate.
9.21 Finally, the Minister says that, prior to the
Commission plans to bring forward legislative proposals in 2011,
the Belgian Presidency envisages that Council Conclusions on this
Communication should be adopted at the 14th December General Affairs
Council, and that she "will press for full Working Party
discussion of the proposals in the Communication before substantive
Council Conclusions on their content are tabled."
The Minister's letter
9.22 In an associated, but undated letter, the Minister
says that she will press the Presidency for Conclusions "which
are purely procedural at this stage so as to ensure that Council
Working Parties have the chance fully to deliberate the Commission's
substantive proposals", which "may enable Parliamentary
Scrutiny of the Communication to inform the Government's approach
to the Commission's detailed ideas and any resulting Council Conclusions".
9.23 We are grateful to the Minister for her full,
clear and helpful Explanatory Memorandum, and endorse the approach
she has outlined to the Communication.
9.24 We should like her to write in due time ahead
of the Council meeting to which she refers with as much information
as possible about the nature of the draft Council Conclusions
that she expects to be adopted and her views on the extent to
which they safeguard the UK position and, if it is the case, the
areas over which she has continuing concerns.
9.25 In the meantime we shall continue to retain
the Communication under scrutiny.