“As the European Union, we have a moral and political duty to act, promptly and effectively, in cases of natural disaster and to put in place preventive mechanisms to mitigate the effects of catastrophes”. Speaking was Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli as he opened the 33rd meeting of the European Union’s Directors General for Civil Protection. The meeting, which is taking place at the Farnesina, ends today, 30 September 2014. As Pistelli observed, the international situation, as well as climate change, are creating an ever-growing need for coordinated intervention by the countries of the EU. In addition to the directors of the 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, their colleagues in EU candidate and potential candidate countries (Western Balkans and Turkey) are also attending the meeting.
A cost without limits
“The cost of these disasters is terrifyingly without limits”, commented the Deputy Minister. He underscored that since 2009 the damage caused by natural disasters and international crises amounts to 500 million dollars, with a human cost of 110,000 victims and 650 million people in some way affected.
As the head of the Italian Civil Protection Department, Franco Gabrielli, observed, “The increased frequency of these disasters, along with climate change and situations that are leading to ever-growing flows of mass migration andterrorism mean that the EU’s response mechanisms must be more efficient and more effective. We need to improve both our immediate response capacity and our disaster prevention mechanisms”.
Cooperation at the EU level for civil protection and humanitarian aid
Both Pistelli and Gabrielli reiterated that cooperation in civil protection matters is a priority for the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Before the end of 2014, Italy will submit proposals to improve collaboration by EU countries and the crisis response system.
“The crisis response system still shows weak points”, as Pistelli underscored. “We need to improve coordination and define roles on the ground more clearly. This too is how we build Europe”, he concluded. “Strengthening the Union’s disaster response capacity is vital, because our ultimate goal is to save as many human lives as possible”.
The overall focus of the meeting, and a key priority of the Italian Presidency of the EU Council, was on strengthening cooperation between civil protection and humanitarian aid departments. In 2010, the two areas were brought together under the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).