What can the EU do in cases of emergency / crisis ? June 2006 .
We cannot reduce the risk of terrorist attacks to zero. We have to be able to deal with attacks when they occur, recognising that attacks can have effects across EU borders. The response to an incident will often be similar whether that event is natural, technological or man-made, hence the response systems in place to manage the consequences of natural disasters may also be used to alleviate the effects on citizens in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Our response to any such events will make full use of the existing structures, such as the Civil Protection Mechanism, which the EU has developed to respond to major European and international crises.
Civil protection financial instrument, adopted January 2007 .
European mutual assistance
Ensuring an adequate and effective response to the threat of terror and the safety of citizens is not only about the lives of citizens, including their physical and mental health. It is also about the confidence of citizens in the capacity of Member States and the EU to deliver protection, guidance and relief, and to preserve the fundamental values that define our open democratic societies.
The primary responsibility for dealing with the immediate effects of terrorists threats, and disasters in general, lies with the Member States, and in particular with the country in which the attacks or disaster occur. However, large scale CBRN (Chemical, Bacteriological, Radiological, Nuclear) or terrorist attacks can overwhelm national response capacities. Member States should be capable, not only to help themselves, but also to help the other Member States. Also the European Union has to strengthen its capacities in order to assist in this combined effort.
In the event of an incident with cross border effects there will be a need for rapid sharing of operational and policy information, media co-ordination and mutual operational support, drawing on all available means, including military resources. The ability of the EU to take consistent or collective action will also be essential to an effective and efficient response. EU crisis co-ordination arrangements now exist and they will ensure the coherence of the EU response to terrorist attacks.
Developing a risk based approach to capability assessment – focusing on preparing for those events which are judged most likely to occur, and which would have the greatest impact – will enable Member States to develop their capabilities to respond in the event of an emergency. The shared EU database listing the resources and assets which Member States might be able to contribute to dealing with such events in other Member States or overseas complements this work.
The EU approved in 2004 a Solidarity Programme on the consequences of terrorism threat and attacks , and is now working on its implementation. The programme aims at protecting the populations on the territory of the EU and covers civil protection, the health services, intelligence, police and the military, the food chain, the vulnerable industries, transport and the environment.
Within the civil protection framework, the EU aims to improve the preparedness of the Member States to enable them to manage the consequences of a terrorist act. Here, it organised training and simulation exercises. The Commission co-finances an average of 5 major civil protection exercises per year. These exercises, which bring together civil protection teams from various Member States, are designed to test the European response to major disasters and to enhance collective preparedness.
A number of rapid Europe wide rapid response systems have been put in place. The Commission is considering ways of consolidating and creating a secure general rapid alert system (ARGUS). Its aim is to create a central crisis centre within the European Commission.
The EU will act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if one of its Member States is the victim of a terrorist attack (declaration on combating terrorism ). Therefore the EU and Member States will mobilize all the instruments at their disposal, including military resources, to assist a Member State affected by such an attack.
The solidarity, assistance and compensation of the victims of terrorism and their families constitutes an integral part of the response to terrorism at national and European level. Member States should ensure that appropriate compensation is available to victims. Through sharing of best practice on national arrangements, and the development of contact between national victims’ associations, the European Commission will enable the EU to take steps to enhance the support offered to those who most suffer from terrorist attacks.
Internationally, there is a need to provide assistance to EU citizens in third countries and to protect and assist our military and civilian assets on EU crisis management operations. We should also ensure that our work on disaster response is closely co-ordinated with related work in international organisations and in particular the United Nations. The technical assistance provided by the EU to priority third countries factors in assistance on managing the consequences of terrorist attacks.