New steps for improving the EU Civil Protection Mechanism

On 26 March 2020, the European Council discussed the EU's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It subsequently invited the European Commission to make proposals to establish “a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system” in the EU. With this in mind, the Commission proposed, within less than two months, amending the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). The overall aim of this legislative proposal is to ensure that the EU can provide its citizens in Europe and beyond with better crisis and emergency support. 

The Commission’s proposal boosts the UCPM budget capacities from €1.4 billion to €3.5 billion for 2021-2027 to help the mechanism take on new responsibilities, such as creating strategic reserves of medical equipment, developing medical evacuation capacities, or forming emergency medical teams.

According to an Opinion published on October 2, by the European Court of Auditors, the recent proposal on amending the EU's 'Union civil protection mechanism' (UCPM) needs further clarification. In particular, it remains to be decided how its increased resources will be used and monitored. While speeding up the EU's response to crises is essential, the principles of sound financial management and accountability need to prevail, the auditors warned. 

First, this would require a proper needs assessment. There is very little evidence in the proposal of the need for this €2 billion budget increase, as it does not provide any estimate of the costs associated with those new tasks. This makes it impossible to determine whether the proposed budget is appropriate for achieving the intended objectives. 

Furthermore, some of the new objectives proposed lack any corresponding performance indicators or specific monitoring. The proposal no longer guarantees a minimum share of spending for each of the three key strategic pillars of the EU’s crisis response strategy (prevention, preparedness and response). The auditors therefore consider it would be helpful to include a mechanism for reporting the UCPM’s actual spending for each of these pillars.