Statement by Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič at the press conference on sectoral MFF 2021-2027 proposal by the European Commission - EU monitor

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Sunday, July 12, 2020
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Statement by Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič at the press conference on sectoral MFF 2021-2027 proposal by the European Commission

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Tuesday, June 2 2020.

I will start with the EU Civil Protection.

One of the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that Europe needs a more robust civil protection system. A system of the kind that will be able to respond quickly and effectively to an emergency that affects large number or even all EU Member States.

What we have had in place so far was a bit different. It was a system of civil protection that relied exclusively on solidarity among Member States, in the sense that it depended on voluntary offers of Member States to the Member State that requested it. This system has worked very well in all situations of emergencies of limited scope. Scope that was limited to one or a few Member states. But it is not very effective in cases where a large number or all EU Member states are affected at the same time.

You will recall that there was a request for assistance at the end of February by one Member State for medical equipment, which went unanswered. That prompted us to start working on creating rescEU reserve capacity at the EU level, which would enable us to avoid such situations in the future.

To put it simply;

We proposed to strengthen the European response capacities by expanding the scope of the rescEU - that is strategic reserve assets at the EU level that can be mobilised quickly.

How would such expanded rescEU look? It would include, for example, medical equipment, medical evacuation planes, field hospitals, firefighting planes and helicopters, and other assets that can be mobilised quickly in case of emergencies of various kinds, like health emergencies, forest fire outbreaks, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incidents or other major emergencies.

Secondly, we would also propose to strengthen the mandate of European Commission so that the EU would be able to directly procure these capacities, ensuring a safety net of emergency response assets that can support Member States in a situation of an overwhelming crisis.

Thirdly, we also propose to make it possible to the EU to fully finance the development and operational costs of such rescEU capacities.

Finally, as you know, in the EU we have several sectoral crisis mechanisms. They all remain essential. However, we would propose to place the Emergency Response Coordination Centre at the centre. With a stronger ERCC serving as a hub for the network of national crisis centres, we would strengthen coordination to support the EU's swiſt and effective response to a broad range of crises both at home and around the world.

Such reinforced rescEU would ensure that the Union would be well equipped to support Member States and citizens when national capacities are overwhelmed.

Of course, all this requires additional funding. That is why the Commission is proposing a substantial Next Generation EU funding boost of €2 billion for rescEU, bringing it to €3.1 billion in total for the EU Civil Protection Mechanism over the next seven years.

On Humanitarian Aid:

I would firstly like to underline the fact that the EU and its Member States are the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world. But even so one has to admit that the needs for humanitarian assistance are rising faster than this humanitarian aid itself.

In order to address this growing funding gap, which is bound to be aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we propose also a reinforced humanitarian aid budget for the next multiannual financial framework.

Already before the pandemic, the budget available in the EU for humanitarian aid had proven to be insufficient. Insufficient to address even the most acute humanitarian needs. That is why from year to year we had asked for reinforcements of our budget.

At the same time, if you look ahead, we see that the most recent projections of the needs for humanitarian aid show to dramatic increase. The UN OCHA's has issued its assessment last December. Before the COVID-19 pandemic. In its Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 it projected, that 168 million people worldwide would need humanitarian assistance this year. That is up from 136 million in 2018. This is the highest figure in decades. What is worse, it is expected to grow further and reach 212 million by 2022.

Secondly, we should not forget challenges like climate change and some traditional threats like conflicts, food insecurity and deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases other than COVID-19, diseased like cholera, measles, Ebola. All this due to inadequate health, water and sanitation situation.

Conflict and disaster triggered more than 33 million new internal displacements across 145 countries and territories in 2019 alone. The number of people forced to flee their homes is the highest since the World War II. Today there are more than 70 million people forcibly displaced.

Thirdly, when you bring in the COVID-19 pandemic, we can already see that it has already had a severe impact, indirect one could say, for longer-term socio-economic situation.

The direct impact of the pandemic is hitting people in fragile states and ongoing humanitarian crises particularly hard. The UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 has been more than tripled in less than two months to USD 6.7 billion!

The pandemic is already generating additional immediate humanitarian impacts in areas like health, water, sanitation and hygiene but also logistics due to movement restrictions linked to COVID-19 measures. All this is expected to worsen as a result of the worldwide economic recession

This is why the Commission proposes a substantial increase in the next long-term budget for EU Humanitarian Aid so that in total it would €14.8 billion, of which €5 billion under the Next Generation EU.

Finally, emergencies are by definition unpredictable. That is why we propose to reinforce the flexible instrument, the EU's Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve. This is a special instrument, which will allow us to respond quickly to unforeseen needs.