Do We Need an EU Disaster Response Force?

UPDATE (16.08.2010): French President Nicolas Sarkozy has officially proposed to the European Commission to “build a real EU reaction force … that draws on the resources of the member states”.

The French junior minister for EU affairs, Pierre Lellouche,  calls for a European disaster response force in the context of Russia’s wildfires.

The question is – do we really need such a common EU force? We already have the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection which should coordinate the disaster response of Member States. But I suppose Mr. Lellouche’s point is that current coordination is not enough. Take for example the EU Strategy for Supporting Disaster Risk Reduction in Developing Countries. It is a very important document, and contains a lot of good ideas on creating a strategic framework to guide EU’s disaster risk reduction support to developing countries. However, the Implementation Plan for the strategy is still not published. The Implementation Plan should clarify the key actions, responsibilities, main instruments and the sequencing of implementation for the strategy priorities, and it was due in 2009. The delay is a clear signal that not all is well in EU cooperation on disaster response, and that probably some Member States are reluctant to step further. So even if a disaster response force is necessary, it may not be possible at the moment.

That being said, the future demand for disaster risk reduction and response services will probably grow. The EU must recognize its own important role in providing such services as an effort affecting not only humanitarian, but security issues as well. Further fragmentation of disaster response efforts will be detrimental to the common foreign and security policy objectives of the European Union.

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