Question and Answers: European Union Disaster Resilience Goals

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Wednesday, February 8 2023.

What are the newly proposed disaster resilience goals?

The European Commission adopted a Recommendation and a Communication to establish five common goals as follows:

  • Anticipate - To improve risk assessment, anticipation, and disaster risk management planning.
  • Prepare - To increase risk awareness and preparedness of the population.
  • Alert - To enhance early warning.
  • Respond - To enhance the Union Civil Protection Mechanism response capacity.
  • Secure - To ensure a robust civil protection system.

Why did the European Commission introduce the disaster resilience goals now?

Over the past few years the EU has been confronted with a number of unprecedented disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. Meanwhile also the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more apparent with devastating floods, droughts and wildfires putting in danger people, the environment and our economies. We must work together as EU to withstand the impacts of future disasters and we need to be better prepared to act, before disasters strike. That is why, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism was revised in May 2021 to reinforce our prevention and preparedness capacities, and we developed the disaster resilience goals together with the Member States.

What is the Union Civil Protection Mechanism?

In October 2001, the European Commission established the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). The UCPM aims to strengthen cooperation between the EU countries and 8 participating states on civil protection to improve prevention, preparedness, and response to disasters.

When an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country in Europe and beyond, it can request assistance through the Mechanism. The Commission plays a key role in coordinating the disaster response worldwide, contributing to at least 75% of the transport and/or operational costs of deployments.

How many countries participate in the Union Civil Protection Mechanism?

In addition to the 27 EU Member States, there are currently 8 Participating States in the UCPM: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, and Türkiye.

How do the new disaster resilience goals contribute to the Union Civil Protection Mechanism?

The Union Civil Protection Mechanism is at the forefront or Europe's response to disasters and crises. In addition to disaster response, over the past 20 years, the Mechanism has also supported our Member States to prevent and prepare for disasters. The disaster resilience goals:

  • Improve prevention and preparedness for future disasters, using all the tools of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. They give strategic direction to prevention and preparedness action at the EU level and in Member States.
  • Contribute to the broader EU resilience agenda. While the goals are specific to the area of civil protection, they will strengthen resilience efforts in other areas, such as in critical infrastructure, health, transport, and cyber-security.
  • The goals - although designed for the EU context - will also have a wider reach. They will guide our policy dialogue with partner countries and assistance to their civil protection systems. With the disaster resilience goals, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism will also help promote the “EU model” for regional cooperation on disaster preparedness in other parts of the world.

How did the Commission develop the disaster resilience goals?

The latest revision of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism legislation, in May 2021, raised the bar of prevention and preparedness for future disasters with the introduction of the Union disaster resilience goals. In line with the legislation, the disaster resilience goals have been developed and fine-tuned in cooperation with Member States and Participating States. The Commission worked closely with experts from Member States and Participating States to identify and develop these goals.

What are the concrete improvements that these goals will achieve?

The disaster resilience goals focus on 5 key strategic areas of civil protection action to achieve more disaster resilience at the EU level and in Member States. Each with specific objectives and flagships, the five goals will help to:

  • Anticipate: improve the Union and the Member States' capability to identify and assess complex disaster risks.
  • Prepare: increase disaster risk awareness and preparedness of the population e.g. Becoming risk-aware and knowing how to prepare at home, school and in the community;
  • Alert: enhance the effectiveness and interoperability of our early warning systems
  • Respond: scale up the Union Civil Protection Mechanism response capacity for wildfire, flood, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) events, search and rescue needs, and emergency health.
  • Secure: ensure that the civil protection system remains operational 24/7 during and after a disaster, when it is most needed.

What are the flagship initiatives and how will they support the disaster resilience goals?

Each of the five disaster resilience goals is accompanied by a flagship initiative. Flagship initiatives will help translate the broader resilience goals and objectives into concrete steps and mobilise relevant stakeholders to cooperate on issues of common interest. The European Commission has proposed the following focus areas for flagship initiatives:

  • Flagship initiative under goal 1: Develop Europe-wide disaster scenarios to support planning and preparedness for disasters that transcend geographical and sectoral borders.
  • Flagship initiative under goal 2: Launch a preparEU pan-European awareness raising programme for disaster resilience targeting wider population.
  • Flagship initiative under goal 3: Link global early warning to local action in Europe.
  • Flagship initiative under goal 4: Scale up the rescEU strategic reserve of response capacities by doubling the aerial firefighting fleet.
  • Flagship initiative under goal 5: Stress-test the emergency operation centres across Europe to ensure they themselves remain resilient in complex emergency situations.

What financial support will the EU make available to achieve the disaster resilience goals?

The European Commission will support the implementation of the disaster resilience goals through the various measures that the UCPM provides for. This includes financial support for prevention and preparedness projects, technical assistance funds to prepare prevention and preparedness investments, support to carry out peer reviews, training and exercises of civil protection authorities, support to evidence gathering, risk assessment, risk communication and enhancing the operational tools of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre. For example, the Commission will concede major investments to scale up the strategic rescEU reserve, in particular to double the EU's aerial wildfire fighting fleet.

Moreover, throughout the programming period 2021-2027, significant EU funding is available to Member States to promote disaster risk resilience and support prevention and preparedness investments at national, regional and local scales. Amongst others, Member States have at their disposal the Recovery and Resilience facility, including the Technical Support Instrument, Cohesion Policy Funding and the Common Agriculture Policy Strategic Plans.

The Horizon Europe programme will support research and innovation to foster more disaster and climate resilience in the EU. The EU Space programme supports the development of the Galileo satellite system and the Copernicus operational services that play a pivotal role in enhancing early warning systems in Europe and globally.

When will the new legislation enter into force and when can we expect that the EU's disaster resilience has become more robust?

The implementation of the goals will start as of the adoption of the Recommendation in February 2023. The time-horizon for the goals is set at 2027-2030, considering that longer-term actions and systemic investments will be needed to structurally reinforce civil protection capabilities and increase resilience. The timelines are aligned with the UN-led Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that has an overall time horizon of 2030.

Despite the above long-term horizon, the flagship initiatives will bring concrete results much sooner. For example, the flagship initiative of goal 4, ‘Scaling up the rescEU strategic reserve' will intend to double the rescEU's aerial firefighting fleet by 2023 with up to 3 additional helicopters and 12 light aircraft. Under the flagship of Goal 1, ‘Europe-wide disaster scenarios', work has already started and 10 disaster scenarios covering 16 main hazards and possible effects that Europe could be exposed to will be developed before the end of 2023.

How does the new EU Civil Protection Mechanism align with views of EU citizens?

The EU's civil protection policy enjoys strong public support as one of the very practical facets of the EU solidarity, extended to people affected by disasters - in Europe and globally. In parallel to the legislative process, the Commission conducted a Eurobarometer survey in 2020 to gauge public opinion on European civil protection throughout the Member States. The findings show strong support for the EU's crisis management, with 84% of Europeans agreeing that coordinated EU action should be increased to respond more effectively to future disasters and crises. On average, more than 9 in 10 Europeans agree that their country should provide help when a disaster strikes in another EU country that is too big to deal with on their own, a clear sign of support for EU solidarity.

For more information

Commission Recommendation on Union disaster resilience goals

Commission Communication on the European Union Disaster Resilience Goals: Acting together to deal with future emergencies

EU Civil Protection Mechanism

Emergency Response Coordination Centre