The EU is exposed to an array of potential crises and disasters, such as those associated with climate change or caused by terrorist and cyber attacks or by failures in critical infrastructure. EU States are responsible for managing emergencies on their territories and for deciding whether they need external assistance. However, since disasters are often of a cross-border nature, they might require multilateral and coordinated responses.
EU response capacity
The EU should be able to respond to disasters both inside and outside the EU. Lessons learnt from recent events suggest that there is room for further improvement in terms of efficiency and coherence, rapidity of deployment, operational and political coordination and internal and external visibility of EU actions.
EU internal security strategy
European citizens expect the EU to take measures to protect their lives and assets as well as to provide effective assistance to non-EU countries, as an important expression of European solidarity. Enhancing Europe's resilience to crises and disasters is one of the core objectives of the Internal Security Strategy in Action, which was adopted in November 2010. The strategy requires solidarity in response and responsibility in prevention and in preparedness, with an emphasis on better EU-level risk assessment and risk management of all potential hazards.
Given the variety and importance of the risks to internal security, the Strategy gives threat and risk assessment a key role in supporting policy formulation, development and implementation. DG Home Affairs is the leading Commission department for the assessment of intentional man-made risks, such as those posed by terrorism. Its expertise is also used to develop security policies in other sectors, e.g. in the transport or energy security areas.
The solidarity clause in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Art. 222) introduces a legal obligation on the EU and its States to assist each other when an EU State is the object of a terrorist attack or a natural or man-made disaster. Through the implementation of this clause, the EU aims to be better organised and more efficient in managing crises in terms of both prevention and response.
In recent years, different crisis coordination mechanisms have been set up to enhance the EU's crisis management capacity. The EU emergency and crisis coordination arrangements (EU-CCA) define rules for interactions between EU institutions and affected EU States during a crisis, while the integrated EU arrangements for crisis management with cross-border effects (EU-ICMA) facilitate practical cooperation between EU States. These provide a generic arrangement for all types of crises, such as natural and man-made disasters.
At Commission level, the rapid alert system - ARGUS - was created to better coordinate the Commission’s response capacity. ARGUS brings together all relevant Commission services to coordinate efforts, evaluate the best options for action and decide on the appropriate response measures during an emergency.