The European Commission (EC) has proposed to strengthen the European Civil Protection Mechanism with more powers and a greater budgetary allocation to react faster to future emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.RELATED
“Europe needs a more resistant civil protection system,” said European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, on Tuesday, detailing this item of the budget of the European Union (EU) for the period 2021-2027, which amounts to 1, 1 billion euros.
Of this amount, Brussels wants to dedicate € 3.1 billion to the civil protection system, which represents an increase of € 2 billion compared to the budget proposal prior to the emergence of the coronavirus in the EU.
This money is part of the Brussels proposal for the multiannual financial framework (MFF) presented last week and which is still to be negotiated with the Council, an institution representing the EU Member States, and would be used to create strategic reserves of equipment to cover health emergencies or forest fire outbreaks, among others.
“When the coronavirus hit Europe, many types of medical equipment were missing in the member states. However, the EU did not have the power or the means to offer equipment, we could only encourage cooperation,” Lenarcic recalled.
That cooperation depended on a voluntary system of solidarity between countries, so that a Member State asks for help from its partners, and they provide it based on their goodwill.
The system “has worked well,” but it has been shown to have been overcome by major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenarcic said.
Under the new design of the mechanism, Brussels wants to create strategic reserves in a group of between 6 and 8 countries, for which Germany and Romania have already applied, which include medical teams, medical evacuation aircraft, field hospitals and evacuation helicopters and of fire fighting that can “be mobilized quickly for the use of all Member States”.
It should work as a last resort when the Member State is unable to supply and cannot be assisted by other EU countries either.
In addition, the Commission could directly buy medical equipment and finance these reserves and their use with its own funds, while currently it can only propose joint tenders, to which capitals must go.
Under the current purchasing system, the EU has acquired “hundreds of thousands” of essentially face masks that have been destined for Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Montenegro and North Macedonia, Lenarcic said.