Documents considered by the Committee on 12 September 2018 Contents

5The EU Civil Protection Mechanism: strengthening EU disaster management

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Decision amending Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism

Legal base

Article 196 TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV


Cabinet Office

Document Number

(39265), 14884/17, COM(17) 772

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

5.1The EU Civil Protection Mechanism enables Member States to coordinate their response to natural and man-made disasters within and beyond the EU. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre is the operational hub of the Mechanism, drawing on a voluntary pool of assets committed in advance by Member States to respond to emergencies (the European Emergency Response Capacity). The Commission considers that the EU Civil Protection Mechanism as it currently operates cannot meet the demands placed on it—in 2017 alone, it was unable to respond to seven (out of 17) requests for assistance to fight forest fires. It has therefore proposed an amending Decision which seeks to address capacity gaps and ensure that the Mechanism is equipped to respond to a range of emergency situations. The Commission proposes a dual system based on “two complementary pillars”:

5.2Our earlier Reports listed at the end of this chapter provide a detailed overview of the changes proposed by the Commission. The Government’s position, in summary, is that:

5.3The Minister for Implementation at the Cabinet Office (Oliver Dowden) told us in June that the Government intended to work constructively with the Council Presidency to agree a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament which would be “proportionate, cost-effective and in line with the voluntary and Member State-led principles underpinning the EU Civil Protection Mechanism”. He indicated that the UK’s approach to rescEU and the European Civil Protection Pool was shared by other Member States. In his latest letter of 6 August 2018, the Minister confirms that the Committee of Member States’ Permanent Representatives to the EU (COREPER) was able to agree a negotiating mandate in July which addresses the Government’s concerns.59 The Commission will continue to support and coordinate the activities of Member States in responding to disasters, but “new wording in the compromise text makes clear that the ownership and operational control of response assets remain with Member States”.

5.4The Council’s negotiating mandate preserves the flexibility under the existing Mechanism to co-finance transportation costs for international deployments, even if these relate to national assets which have are not pre-committed to the European Civil Protection Pool. This is beneficial for the UK as it does not currently have any assets committed to the existing voluntary pool.

5.5Whilst broadly supportive of the compromise reached within the Council, the Minister observes that there is scope to strengthen some aspects during trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament which are expected to begin in September. The UK has proposed additional wording to ensure that there is “a clearer link to the role of the Commission in supporting and coordinating the activities of Member States”. The Minister acknowledges the possibility that negotiations with the European Parliament “may result in a compromise text, which substantially differs from the current compromise text” and adds that, in this eventuality, “the Government will evaluate the new text and review its position accordingly”. The Council Presidency intends to seek agreement to a final compromise text at the December Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Our Conclusions

5.6We thank the Minister for his update on the conclusion of the first phase of negotiations within the Council. We note that the compromise text agreed by COREPER as the basis for negotiations with the European Parliament addresses many of the Government’s concerns about the financing, ownership, and command and control of rescEU assets. It also makes clear that decisions on the deployment of rescEU assets must be taken by the Commission “in close coordination” with the Member State requesting assistance and the Member State/s owning the assets. We ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that this wording ensures that “the ultimate decision” rests with the Member State hosting the rescEU asset, particularly in cases involving the deployment of that Member State’s personnel.60

5.7Given the possibility that trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament “may result in a compromise text which substantially differs from the current compromise text”, we intend to hold the proposed amending Decision under scrutiny and ask the Minister to provide progress reports. Once the outline of a final deal is clearer, we would like to hear whether it affects the Government’s assessment that there would be “clear benefits” in cooperating with the EU on civil protection post-exit. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposed Decision amending Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism: (39265), 14884/17, COM(17) 772.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-fourth Report HC 301–xxxiii (2017–19), chapter 2 (4 July 2018), Twenty-fifth Report HC 301–xxiv (2017–19), chapter 2 (25 April 2018) and Eleventh Report HC 301–xi (2017–19), chapter 2 (24 January 2018).

59 See the Council’s press release issued on 25 July 2018.

60 See the Minister’s letter of 6 June 2018 to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee.

Published: 18 September 2018