After the outbreak the coronavirus pandemic, the EU has funded the repatriation of tens of thousands of European citizens through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Yet not all EU governments decided to take advantage of this form of support from Brussels.
The EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism
In addition to the EU member states, there are six participating countries in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM): Iceland, Norway, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. The program was set up in 2001 and since then more than 330 coordinated actions have taken place. If an emergency exceeds a country’s ability to respond, in essence the CPM is a mechanism from which it may request assistance. The CPM is a form of cooperation, best adapted to situations where a country knows what help it needs but cannot obtain it. In such cases assistance can be coordinated quickly and efficiently at EU headquarters.
Following a request through the Mechanism, the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) can mobilize assistance or expertise. The ERCC monitors such situations 24 hours a day and provides emergency support in cooperation with national civil protection authorities. Satellite maps produced by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service provide additional support for the operations. Copernicus provides geographical information (GIS) that is useful for mapping affected areas and planning disaster relief operations.
Any country in the world, even the United Nations and its agencies or an NGO, can request assistance via the CPM for help. The mechanism was used in the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa (2014) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018), in the aftermaths of tropical cyclone Idai in Mozambique (2019), an earthquake in Albania (2019) and forest fires in Sweden (2018), Bolivia (2019), and Greece (2019).
The coronavirus has redefined the CPM
The coronavirus pandemic is a major challenge for the Civil Protection Mechanism. In this case there is not a state or a region that needs coordinated assistance, but rather each member state desperately trying to improve its situation, looking for stocks on an otherwise empty European market, or trying to develop its own production. But whether it is masks, tests, ventilators or medications, or even medical and nursing staff, the demand far exceeds the supply.
In principle, EU coordination is important in order to get stocks to where they are needed, in line with the flatten