The proposal is a central part of President Juncker's agenda of a Europe that protects. The initiative comes in light of more complex and frequent natural disasters that have seriously affected many European countries over recent years. A key part of the proposal is the creation of rescEU, a reserve at European level of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams. These will complement national assets and will be managed by the European Commission in order to support countries hit by disasters such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics.
Alone in 2017, over 200 people were killed by natural disasters in Europe and over one million hectares of forest have been destroyed. President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Europe can't be on the side-lines when our Member States suffer from natural disasters and need help. No country in Europe is immune to natural disasters which have sadly become the new normal. When a disaster strikes, I want the European Union to offer more than condolences. Europe is a continent of solidarity and we must be better prepared than before, and faster in helping our Member States on the frontline." "The tragedies of last summer and the past few years have shown that our current disaster response system has reached its limits in its existing voluntary format. The challenges we face have evolved, and so must we. It is a matter of solidarity and shared responsibility at all levels. This is what European citizens expect from us and I now look to European governments and the European Parliament to embrace this proposal," saidChristos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
The Commission proposal focuses on two complementary strands of action, targeting a stronger collective response at European level and improved prevention and preparedness capacities: 1) Strengthening European response capacities: rescEU and 2) Stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness. Finally, the proposal will streamline and simplify administrative procedures in order to reduce the time needed to deploy life-saving assistance. Find out more information in our full press release, Q&A MEMO and factsheet. The press conference of Commissioner Stylianides is available here.