Union Civil Protection Mechanism

General objective and subject matter

The Union Civil Protection Mechanism (“the Union Mechanism”) shall aim to strengthen the cooperation between the Union and the Member States and to facilitate coordination in the field of civil protection in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing, preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters.

The protection to be ensured by the Union Mechanism shall cover primarily people, but also the environment and property, including cultural heritage, against all kinds of natural and man-made disasters, including the consequences of acts of terrorism, technological, radiological or environmental disasters, marine pollution, and acute health emergencies, occurring inside or outside the Union. In the case of the consequences of acts of terrorism or radiological disasters, the Union Mechanism may cover only preparedness and response actions.

The Union Mechanism shall promote solidarity between the Member States through practical cooperation and coordination, without prejudice to the Member States’ primary responsibility to protect people, the environment, and property, including cultural heritage, on their territory against disasters and to provide their disaster-management systems with sufficient capabilities to enable them to cope adequately and in a consistent manner with disasters of a nature and magnitude that can reasonably be expected and prepared for.
Such cooperation shall include:
(a) prevention and preparedness actions inside the Union and also outside the Union; and
(b) actions to assist with the response to immediate adverse consequences of a disaster inside or outside the Union, including in the countries referred to in Article 28(1), following a request for assistance through the Union Mechanism.

Specific objectives

The Union Mechanism shall support, complement and facilitate coordination of Member States’ action in pursuit of the following common specific objectives:

  • to achieve a high level of protection against disasters by preventing or reducing their potential effects, by fostering a culture of prevention and by improving cooperation between the civil protection and other relevant services;
  • to enhance preparedness at Member State and Union level to respond to disasters;
  • to facilitate rapid and efficient response in the event of disasters or imminent disasters; and
  • to increase public awareness and preparedness for disasters.

Third countries and international organisations
The Union Mechanism shall be open to the participation of:
(a) European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), in accordance with the conditions laid down in the EEA Agreement, and other European countries when agreements and procedures so provide;
(b) acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidates in accordance with the general principles and general terms and conditions for the participation of those countries in Union programmes established in the respective Framework Agreements and Association Council Decisions, or similar arrangements;
International or regional organisations may cooperate in activities under the Union Mechanism where relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements between those organisations and the Union so allow.


‘disaster’ means any situation which has or may have a severe impact on people, the environment, or property, including cultural heritage;
‘response’ means any action taken upon request for assistance under the Union Mechanism in the event of an imminent disaster, or during or after a disaster, to address its immediate adverse consequences;
‘preparedness’ means a state of readiness and capability of human and material means, structures, communities and organisations enabling them to ensure an effective rapid response to a disaster, obtained as a result of action taken in advance;
‘prevention’ means any action aimed at reducing risks or mitigating adverse consequences of a disaster for people, the environment and property, including cultural heritage;
‘early warning’ means the timely and effective provision of information that allows action to be taken to avoid or reduce risks and the adverse impacts of a disaster, and to facilitate preparedness for an effective response;
‘module’ means a self-sufficient and autonomous predefined task- and needs-driven arrangement of Member States’ capabilities or a mobile operational team of the Member States, representing a combination of human and material means that can be described in terms of its capacity for intervention or by the task(s) it is able to undertake;
‘risk assessment’ means the overall cross-sectoral process of risk identification, risk analysis, and risk evaluation undertaken at national or appropriate sub-national level;
‘risk management capability’ means the ability of a Member State or its regions to reduce, adapt to or mitigate risks (impacts and likelihood of a disaster), identified in its risk assessments to levels that are acceptable in that Member State. Risk management capability is assessed in terms of the technical, financial and administrative capacity to carry out adequate:
(a) risk assessments;
(b) risk management planning for prevention and preparedness; and
(c) risk prevention and preparedness measures;
‘host nation support’ means any action undertaken in the preparedness and response phases by the country receiving or sending assistance, or by the Commission, to remove foreseeable obstacles to international assistance offered through the Union Mechanism. It includes support from Member States to facilitate the transiting of this assistance through their territory;
‘response capacity’ means assistance that may be provided through the Union Mechanism upon request;
‘logistical support’ means the essential equipment or services required for expert teams to perform their tasks, inter alia communication, temporary accommodation, food or in-country transport.


Prevention actions
To fulfil the prevention objectives and carry out prevention actions, the Commission shall:
(a) take action to improve the knowledge base on disaster risks and facilitate the sharing of knowledge, best practices and information, including among Member States that share common risks;
(b) support and promote Member States’ risk assessment and mapping activity through the sharing of good practices, and facilitate access to specific knowledge and expertise on issues of common interest;
(c) establish and regularly update a cross-sectoral overview and map of natural and man-made disaster risks the Union may face, by taking a coherent approach across different policy areas that may address or affect disaster prevention and taking due account of the likely impacts of climate change;
(d) encourage an exchange of good practices on preparing national civil protection systems to cope with the impact of climate change;
(e) promote and support the development and implementation of Member States’ risk management activity through the sharing of good practices, and facilitate access to specific knowledge and expertise on issues of common interest;
(f) compile and disseminate the information made available by Member States; organise an exchange of experiences
(h) promote the use of various Union funds which may support sustainable disaster prevention and encourage the Member States and regions to exploit those funding opportunities;
(i) highlight the importance of risk prevention and support the Member States in awareness-raising, public information and education;
(j) promote prevention measures in the Member States and third countries, through the sharing of good practices, and facilitate access to specific knowledge and expertise on issues of common interest; and

At the request of a Member State, a third country or the United Nations or its agencies, the Commission may deploy an expert team on site to provide advice on prevention measures.

Risk management
In order to promote an effective and coherent approach to prevention of and preparedness for disasters by sharing non-sensitive information, namely information whose disclosure would not be contrary to the essential interests of Member States’ security, and best practices within the Union Mechanism, Member States shall:

  • develop and refine their disaster risk management planning at national or appropriate sub-national level;
  • make available to the Commission the assessment of their risk management capability at national or appropriate sub-national level every three years following the finalisation of the relevant guidelines as referred to in point (f) of Article 5(1) and whenever there are important changes; and
  • participate, on a voluntary basis, in peer reviews on the assessment of risk management capability.


Emergency Response Coordination Centre
The ERCC shall ensure 24/7 operational capacity, and serve the Member States and the Commission in pursuit of the objectives of the Union Mechanism.

General preparedness actions of the Commission
The Commission shall carry out the following preparedness actions:
(a) manage the ERCC;
(b) manage a Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS) to enable communication and sharing of information between the ERCC and the Member States’ contact points;
(c) contribute to the development and better integration of transnational detection and early warning and alert systems of European interest in order to enable a rapid response, and to promote the inter-linkage between national early warning and alert systems and their linkage to the ERCC and the CECIS. Those systems shall take into account and build upon existing and future information, monitoring and detection sources and systems;
(d) establish and manage the capability to mobilise and dispatch expert teams, responsible for:
(i) assessing the needs that can possibly be addressed under the Union Mechanism in the state requesting assistance,
(ii) facilitating, when necessary, the coordination of disaster response assistance on site and liaising with the competent authorities of the state requesting assistance, and
(iii) supporting the requesting state with expertise on prevention, preparedness or response actions;
(e) establish and maintain the capability to provide logistical support for those expert teams;
(f) develop and maintain a network of trained experts of the Member States, who can be available at short notice to assist the ERCC in the monitoring of information and facilitating coordination;
(g) facilitate the coordination of the Member States’ pre-positioning of disaster response capacities inside the Union;
(h) support efforts to improve the inter-operability of modules and other response capacities, taking into account the best practices at the level of the Member States and at international level;
(i) take, within its sphere of competence, the necessary actions to facilitate host nation support, including developing and updating, together with Member States, guidelines on host nation support, on the basis of operational experience;
(j) support the creation of voluntary peer review assessment programmes for the Member States’ preparedness strategies, based on pre-defined criteria, which will enable recommendations to be formulated to strengthen the level of preparedness of the Union; and
(k) in close consultation with the Member States, take additional necessary supporting and complementary preparedness action.


Notification of disasters within the Union

  1. In the event of a disaster within the Union, or of an imminent disaster, which causes or is capable of causing trans-boundary effects or affects or is capable of affecting other Member States, the Member State in which the disaster occurs or is likely to occur shall, without delay, notify the potentially affected Member States and, where the effects are potentially significant, the Commission.
  2. In the event of a disaster within the Union, or of an imminent disaster, which is likely to result in a call for assistance from one or more Member States, the Member State in which the disaster occurs or is likely to occur shall, without delay, notify the Commission that a possible request for assistance through the ERCC can be expected, in order to enable the Commission, as appropriate, to inform the other Member States and to activate its competent services.

Responding to disasters within the Union
When a disaster occurs within the Union, or is imminent, the affected Member State may request assistance through the ERCC. The request shall be as specific as possible.
In exceptional situations of increased risk a Member State may also request assistance in the form of temporary pre-positioning of response capacities.
Upon receiving a request for assistance, the Commission shall, as appropriate and without delay:
(a) forward the request to the contact points of other Member States;
(b) collect validated information on the situation, in conjunction with the affected Member State, and disseminate it to the Member States;
(c) make recommendations, in consultation with the requesting Member State, for the provision of assistance through the Union Mechanism, based on the needs on the ground and any relevant pre-developed plans, as referred to in Article 10(1), invite Member States to deploy specific capacities and facilitate the coordination of the required assistance; and
(d) take additional action to facilitate the coordination of the response.

Any Member State to which a request for assistance is addressed through the Union Mechanism shall promptly determine whether it is in a position to render the assistance required and inform the requesting Member State of its decision through the CECIS, indicating the scope, terms and, where applicable, costs of the assistance it could render. The ERCC shall keep the Member States informed.

The requesting Member State shall be responsible for directing assistance interventions. The authorities of the requesting Member State shall lay down guidelines and, if necessary, define the limits of the tasks entrusted to the modules or other response capacities. The details of the execution of those tasks shall be left to the person in charge appointed by the Member State rendering assistance. The requesting Member State may also request the deployment of an expert team to support its assessment, facilitate coordination on site between Member States’ teams or provide technical advice.

The requesting Member State shall take the appropriate actions to facilitate host nation support for the incoming assistance.
The role of the Commission referred to in this Article shall not affect the Member States’ competences and responsibility for their teams, modules and other support capacities, including military capacities. In particular, the support offered by the Commission shall not entail command and control over the Member States’ teams, modules and other support, which shall be deployed on a voluntary basis in accordance with the coordination at headquarters level and on site.