First EU Civil Protection Forum seeks to protect citizens from terrorism and natural and technological disasters

Dec. 4, 2002
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom recently launched the European Commission's first Civil Protection Forum in Brussels (28-29 November 2002).

Dec. 4, 2002 -- EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom recently launched the European Commission's first Civil Protection Forum in Brussels (28-29 November 2002).

The aim of the forum was to promote an in-depth exchange of information, best practices and experience on issues linked to natural and technological risks as well as terrorist attacks. This initiative is part of the commission's contribution to strengthen EU co-operation on Civil Protection.

The program included plenary sessions and workshops on the perception of risk by European citizens, safety at sea for people and the environment, nuclear, chemical and biological risks (prevention, preparedness, response) and terrorist risks in public places.

During the event, Commissioner Wallstrom also signed Memoranda of Understanding with several candidate countries on their full participation within the community Co-ordination Mechanism for Civil Protection.

"The world we live in today is complex and technologically advanced but also vulnerable," Commissioner Wallstrom commented. "The floods in Europe this summer, recent tragic events in Bali and Moscow and the Prestige tanker accident have all, sadly, highlighted this fact. EU countries can be better prepared to respond to such disasters and face any new threats, if we work together."

Civil Protection Forum

The First Civil Protection Forum is designed to promote an in-depth exchange of experiences, best practices and information on issues linked to terrorist attacks, natural and technological risks - nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological.

The forum has been initiated to increase the common knowledge-base within the EU on these very important issues whilst strengthening co-operation between the European Commission and key stakeholders at all levels. The aim is to ensure better prevention, preparedness and response in the context of an integrated EU Civil Protection system and to pinpoint challenges and future policy actions at European level.

The forum is also part of the commission's determined effort to promote and share scientific progress in this area, using the opportunities offered by the new EU Research Framework Program (FP6 2003-2006), and by the commission's Joint Research Center.

Debate and Discussion

Lasting two consecutive days, the multi-faceted program dealt with themes such as public perception of risk, nuclear risk, chemical and biological risk and risk of future epidemics, safety at the sea and risks of terrorist attacks in public places.

The co-ordination of disaster management received special attention at the forum, where the various sectors involved, i.e. search and rescue services, medical services, police, NGOs, civil-military co-operation as well as the media voiced their concerns in a challenging and dynamic environment.

The exchange facilitated the implementation of better security responses in the event of a disaster or an attack through co-ordination at all levels: local, national and international.

Co-operation with candidate countries

The Memorandum of Understanding will allow each candidate country to take part in the different components of the Civil Protection Mechanism from January 2003 onwards.

This will include, for example, receiving immediate support in the event of major emergencies from intervention teams and other equipment dispatched via the Monitoring and Information Center, having access to a comprehensive database with relevant contact details of the intervention teams in Member States, or to participate in the training program.

The Memoranda of Understanding was signed by Commissioner Wallstrom and representatives of the following eight candidate countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

The EU and Civil Protection: Background

The forum extends the commission's now long-established policy program in Civil Protection. The foundations for this policy date back to 1985 and the first two-year Action Program for Civil Protection 1998-1999 was followed by a five-year Action Program for the period 2000-2004.

On 23 October 2001, the council adopted a decision establishing a community mechanism to facilitate reinforced co-operation in civil protection assistance interventions, on a proposal from the commission. Through this mechanism, which is coordinated by the European Commission, it is possible to mobilize the necessary operational resources to provide prompt support to assist a country (inside and outside the EU) in need of help, in the event of a disaster. This Forum will help implement the objectives of prevention and preparedness set out in the Communications from the commission to the council and Parliament on 28th November 2001 and 11 June 2002, following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

Several operational instruments have been established by the commission in collaboration with the Civil Protection Authorities of Member States to ensure better preparedness in the case of requests for mutual assistance. These include the Operational Manual, the 24h/24h Operational Structure of the Monitoring and Information Center (MIC) and the Secondment of Experts.

These will ensure a fast and effective response, where and when it is needed. In addition, several other continuous instruments are used to improve effective mutual assistance, including training workshops and courses, a system for the exchange of experts, as well as simulation exercises, of which the Euratox exercise 2002 is the most recent.

In addition, a Vade-Mecum of Civil Protection in the European Union contains a description of the organization of intervention in Member States, the emergency plans anticipating disasters and a summary of bilateral agreements. EU action also includes an extensive Research and Development (R&D) effort in the context of framework programs of the European Union for research, technological development and demonstration activities (especially in the fields of river and flood management, protection against earthquakes and volcanoes, forest-fire combat strategies and emergency management systems using modern information and communication technologies).

Details of this event can be found on the following website :

http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/civil/forum.htm

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