EU disaster response is broadly effective, auditors say

19 Jan 17

The European Union’s response to recent disasters around the world has been “broadly effective”, according to the European Court of Auditors.

In a new report published yesterday, the ECA examined whether the European Commission had been “effective in facilitating the co-ordination of the responses” to three recent disasters. These were floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014, the outbreak of the Ebola virus in west Africa between 2014 and 2016, and the Nepal earthquake in 2015.

The focus of the performance audit was the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, which is managed by the commission and aims to co-ordinate responses to disasters worldwide. It covers all 28 EU member states as well as Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.

The ECA found that for each of the three disasters considered, the activation of the UCPM was timely and that EU civil protection units helped to co-ordinate teams from participating countries on the ground. This effectiveness had been strengthened by the widespread sharing of information, said the report.

The auditors also concluded that co-ordination among commission departments, as well as with other EU and non-EU bodies, had been “inclusive”. In their view, the commission had respected the United Nations’ overall lead and had taken steps to ensure a smooth transition into the recovery phase of the disasters.

Hans Gustaf Wessberg, the member of the ECA responsible for the report, stressed the importance of the civil protection mechanism’s role.

“When a disaster occurs, the reaction must be swift. Sound disaster management saves lives, and effective coordination among different responders – as we found here – is critical to the successful preparation for and response to disasters,” he said.

He added: “The commission’s coordinating role and its round-the-clock crisis centre are good examples of value added by European cooperation.”

Notwithstanding its generally positive conclusions, the report highlighted areas for further improvement. Among its recommendations were that the commission should find ways to gain more time in the early stages of disasters, and when selecting and deploying EU civil protection teams. The auditors also said that the commission should develop its communication and information platform to give it a better overview of where help was needed.

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