The Union Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to improve the EU response to natural and man-made disasters inside and outside Europe. It is governed by Decision No 1313/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council.

In the area of civil protection, the main responsibility for protecting citizens and the environment lies on the Member States. The EU coordinates, supports and complements national actions related to risk prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is the operational hub of the UCPM that monitors emergencies 24/7. The European Emergency Response Capacity is a ‘voluntary pool’ of national resources which are pre-committed by the participating countries. It brings together rescue teams, trained experts, and specialized equipment ready to intervene when called upon by the Commission. The UCPM intervenes in different kind of emergencies: wildfires, floods, marine pollution, earthquakes, hurricane, and industrial accidents.

Today, the UCPM relies on a voluntary system of mutual assistance and on capacities offered by the Member States. However, the forest fires in 2017 and 2018 pointed out the limits of this approach to respond to increasingly complex and recurrent disaster events.

In November 2017, the Commission tabled a proposal amending the current legislation aiming to achieve three objectives:

  • Reinforcing the collective ability to respond to disasters and to address identified capacity gaps by creating a dedicated reserve of response capacities at EU level, rescEU, and enhancing the existing voluntary pool which will be known as European Civil Protection Pool (ECPP)
  • Strengthening the prevention and preparedness action as part of the risk management cycle and improving coherence with other EU policies dealing with disaster risk prevention and management.
  • Simplifying the administrative procedures to ensure rapid access to assistance.

On 31 May 2018, the European Parliament adopted amendments to the Commission proposal related to:

  • Flexibility of rescEU capacities, their additional role vis-à-vis the Member States capacities under the Pool, and the share of strategic and operational responsibilities for the command and control.
  • UCPM field of action to be extended to terrorist attacks and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
  • Regional and local dimension of the issue
  • Importance of Member States prevention and preparedness plans, especially in relation with investments and post-disaster reconstruction.
  • Relation with other EU funds, such as the Solidarity Fund
  • Union financial support for national assets that are not pre-committed to the ECPP
  • Member States risk assessments that should also take into account the specific risks to wildlife and animal welfare.

The Parliament also sought to ensure separate funding and budgetary allocations for the revised Union Mechanism.

The inter-institutional negotiations started on 4 September 2018 and provisional agreement between the Council Presidency and the European Parliament representatives was reached on 12 December. In February 2019, the MEPs approved the agreement by 620 votes to 22 and 35 abstentions.

According to the adopted text that mends the Commission proposal:

  • Member States retain primary responsibility for disaster prevention and response on their territory. The assistance provided by a Member State through the European Civil Protection Pool is complementary to existing national capacities. The Pool consists of voluntary pre-committed response capacities and includes modules, other response capacities and categories of experts.
  • The role of rescEU is to respond to overwhelming situations as a last resort where existing capacities at national level and those pre-committed to the ECPP are not sufficient. The Commission identifies gaps, overall capabilities and emerging risks at EU level, especially in the areas of aerial forest fire fighting, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents, and health emergencies, and defines, by means of implementing acts, the capabilities of rescEU. They are hosted by the Member States which acquire, rent or lease them. The Commission in close coordination with the concerned Member States decides for their deployment and demobilization. The Union supports Member States by co-financing the development of rescEU capacities.
  • In terms of risk management, Member States further develop risk assessments and the assessment of risk management capability at national or appropriate sub-national level and provide the Commission with a summary of the relevant elements. The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, can set up specific consultation mechanisms to enhance appropriate prevention and preparedness planning and coordination among Member States that are incline to similar types of disasters.
  • The Commission supports Member States’ prevention actions by organizing knowledge sharing, exchange of experience in risk management assessment, and prevention and preparedness planning.  
  • A Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network, bringing together relevant civil protection actors and centres of excellence, universities and researchers is set up. A training programme includes joint courses, exchange of expertise, as well as exchange of young professionals and volunteers. Research and innovation are stimulated.

In April 2021 the European Parliament voted for strengthening the role of the European Union (EU) in crisis management through a legislative revision of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This allows for faster and more effective European solidarity operations in response to large-scale emergencies or disasters that affect several countries at the same time.

New EU Civil Protection features

Enhanced European response capacities for large-scale crises that overwhelm national response capacities via rescEU:

  • Enabling the Commission to directly procure emergency capacities in cases of urgency where national capacities are overwhelmed. For example, the procurement of equipment to deal with unforeseen emergencies.
  • Offering suitable modes of transport and logistic solutions to Member States, for example, to repatriate EU citizens stranded outside the Union to safety, and to transfer medical personnel, medical equipment and therapeutics. The EU finances transport and logistics at 100% rate as part of rescEU capacities.

A faster European coordination of disaster response: 

  • Strengthening EU's Emergency Response Coordination Centre – the EU's hub for crisis management – with enhanced operational, analytical, monitoring, information management and communication capabilities.

Better prevention and preparedness through:

  • Defining Union-wide resilience goals and scenario plans together with Member States;
  • Improving disaster loss data collection to support evidence-based scenario building.

Adequate financial support and greater flexibility to face the realities of an emergency:

  • A significantly enhanced budget with €1,26 (in current prices) billion foreseen under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and additional €2,05 (in current prices) billion through NextGenerationEU.
  • Reducing unnecessary procedures in responding to an emergency and enhancing the possibilities of managing and implementing the EU budget.

Civil Protection in the EU


  • Federal Ministry of the Interior
  • Austrian civil protection association


  • Home Affairs FPS/FOD


  • Ministry of Interior
  • DG Fire Safety and Population Protection, Ministry of Interior
  • Operational Communication and Information Centres (OCICs) (Centrally managed)


  • Ministry of the Interior of Croatia (Civil Protection Directorate), National Protection and Rescue Directorate
  • Regional authorities- counties
  • Local authorties


  • The Ministry of Interior
  • The Department of Civil Defense
  • The Ministry of Justice and Public order
  • Cyprus Police


  • National Security Council
  • Ministry of the Interior


  • Danish Emergency Management Agency
  • Ministry of Defence


  • Estonian Rescue Board
  • Ministry of the Interior
  • 4 Rescue Centres


  • Ministry of the Interior (Police, Rescue services, Border Guard, Emergency Response Centre Administration)
  • Emergency Services College
  • Regional State Administrative Agencies
  • Voluntary, institutional, industrial and military fire brigades (contract fire brigades) also participate in performing rescue service duties, as agreed between the brigades and the regional rescue services.


  • Ministry of Interior
  • Zonal Prefect


  • Federal Ministry of the Interior
  • Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (“Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe") responsible for disaster management, provides emergency supplies and carries out emergency planning with regard to special hazards, protection of critical infrastructures, training in civil protection and disaster relief, disaster medicine, alerting and informing the population, and supports planning activities in the area of international cooperation with the participation of all national civil defence agencies.


  • General Secretariat of Civil Protection
  • Ministry of Citizen Protection


  • The National Directorate General for Disaster Management of the Ministry of Interior


  • Department of Defence
  • Health Service Executive
  • Responsible agencies: An Garda Siochana, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government


  • Cabinet Department of Civil Protection


  • Ministry of Interior
  • Military Police


  • Ministry of the Interior
  • Fire and Rescue Department


  • Ministry of the Interior


  • Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement


  • Ministry of Justice and Security


  • Ministry of the Interior and Administration
  • Government Centre for Security
  • Police
  • Border Guard
  • State Fire Service
  • State Security Service
  • Governor
  • Voivodship Emergency Response Board, Crisis Management Centre
  • County Emergency Response Board, Crisis Management Centre
  • Gmina Emergency Response Board, Emergency Response Centre
  • Mayor


  • Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • National Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC)


  • Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations


  • Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic


  • Ministry of Defence
  • Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief


  • National Civil Emergency Planning Committee (Interministerial)
  • Crisis Cabinet led by Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers
  • Ministry of Interior
  • Civil Protection


  • Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency
  • Ministry of Defence


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