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The External Dimension of the EU Disaster Response


This chapter analyses how the European Union responds to overseas natural and man-made disasters, and discusses the main legal issues involved in Union’s action. The first part of the chapter is devoted to the existing instruments established by the EU institutions before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The analysis reveals a multifaceted scenario: besides some general tools, which are complementary and thus form a global platform for EU response in overseas disasters, the action of the Union has been developed through sector instruments that in some cases risk undermining the efficiency and coherence of the response. The second part of the chapter discusses the innovations introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in this domain. In particular, it shows how these innovations (such as the establishment of a general framework of the EU external action, the establishment of new co-ordinating tools and tasks, the provision of a new explicit legal basis for humanitarian aid) may contribute to ensure a more efficient and consistent management of the external dimension of the EU disaster response.


  • European Union
  • Lisbon Treaty
  • External action
  • Humanitarian aid assistance
  • Civil protection
  • Crisis management

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  1. 1.

    On the basis of the succession of the European Union to the European Community (Article 1 TEU, as amended by the Lisbon Treaty), this chapter refers to the European Union without distinguishing between the EU and EC framework, except where that distinction is relevant.

  2. 2.

    See Chap. 5 by Gestri in this volume.

  3. 3.

    European Commission, Communication ‘Towards a Stronger Disaster Response: The Role of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Assistance’, COM (2010) 600, 26 October 2010, at 2.

  4. 4.

    OJ 1976 L 25/2.

  5. 5.

    OJ 2000 L 317/2.

  6. 6.

    For instance, the 1998 Framework Agreement on Co-operation between the European Community and the Cartagena Agreement and its member countries (OJ 1998 L 127/11) establishes that the Parties shall endeavour to work together on measures targeting, inter alia, research projects on disasters and their prevention.

  7. 7.

    OJ 1996 L 163/1.

  8. 8.

    Whilst the assistance in the event of natural and man-made disasters is mainly delivered under Regulation 1257/96, the European Union has adopted in the course of time other financial resources and financing instruments to support EU response. For a general survey of such instruments and for a more detailed analysis of the Humanitarian Aid Regulation, see Chap. 26 by Palandri, in this volume and Versluys 2009.

  9. 9.

    ECJ, Case C-155/07 European Parliament v Council of the European Union [2008] ECR I-08103; opinion of AG Kokott of 26 June 2008, para 36.

  10. 10.

    Article 1 of the Regulation stipulates that the EU humanitarian aid aims at providing assistance and relief to the victims of natural disasters or man-made crises ‘in third countries, particularly the most vulnerable among them, and as a priority those in developing countries’ [emphasis added].

  11. 11.

    Dusepulchre 2008.

  12. 12.

    ECJ, Case C-268/94 Portuguese Republic v Council of the European Union [1996] ECR I-06177, para 37.

  13. 13.

    As is well known, that provision concerned the relationship between the CFSP and Community policies and provided that the Union could not have recourse to a legal basis falling within the CFSP to adopt act whose aims also felt within a competence conferred on the Community.

  14. 14.

    ECJ, Case C-91/05 European Parliament v Commission of the European Communities [2007] ECR I-09045, para 65.

  15. 15.

    See infra 6.4.2.

  16. 16.

    OJ 2008 C 25/1.

  17. 17.

    Ibid., para 10.

  18. 18.

    See Chap. 2 by Venturini in this volume.

  19. 19.

    See the Third report on the protection of persons in the event of disasters by the special rapporteur of the International Law Commission, Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, doc. A/CN.4/629, 31 March 2010, paras 17–18.

  20. 20.

    See infra 6.4.2.

  21. 21.

    The European Union also interacts with several partners at the political/policy making level. Such cooperation, which is governed by Article 220 TFEU, includes the participation of the Union in decision-making organs and bodies and in normative fora on social, economic, humanitarian and development issues.

  22. 22.

    European Commission, Communication ‘Building an effective partnership with the United Nations in the fields of Development and Humanitarian Affairs’, COM (2001) 231, 2 May 2001.

  23. 23.

    Its text is available at: (accessed 15 January 2012). For a more detailed survey of the FAFA, see Baroncini 2008, 431.

  24. 24.

    The last version of the General Conditions has been adopted on 1 December 2009: (accessed 15 January 2012).

  25. 25.

    OJ 2005 L 52/42.

  26. 26.

    See infra Sect. 6.2.2.

  27. 27.

    For a general survey of the CPM, see Chap. 5 by Gestri in this volume.

  28. 28.

    OJ 2007 L 314/9.

  29. 29.

    The review of the implementation of this act carried out by the European Commission after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has led to the adoption of a Proposal reforming the Mechanism (COM (2011) 934, 20 December 2011). The details of the Proposal concerning the external dimension of civil protection operations will be spelt out later (6.4.1).

  30. 30.

    Under Article 3(1) of the Decision, ‘major emergency’ means ‘any situation which has or may have an adverse impact on people, the environment or property and which may result in a call for assistance under the Mechanism’.

  31. 31.

    See supra n. 25.

  32. 32.

    Besides the Exchange of Letters with UNOCHA and the 1992 Agreement on the European Economic Area (OJ 1994 L 1/3), specific bilateral arrangements have been concluded with Croatia, Russia and Ukraine.

  33. 33.

    Cf. European Council, Presidency Conclusions Santa Maria da Feira European Council Meeting, Part II of Annex I, 19–20 June 2000; see also Olsson 2009 and Marhic 2011.

  34. 34.

    Council of the European Union, Civil Protection in the framework of crisis management—draft concept, doc. 10882/1/02, 16 September 2002.

  35. 35.

    Cf. Council doc. 10639/03, 17 June 2003.

  36. 36.

    At the time of writing, the only case of operation directly linked to a natural disaster, which has been launched by the Union, is represented by the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). However, the AMM, deployed after the massive Indian Ocean tsunami occurred in December 2004, was mainly designed to monitor the implementation of several aspects of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 15 August 2005 between the Free Aceh Movement and the Government of Indonesia: its mandate did not contain any reference to tasks concerning disaster response. Cf. Council Joint Action No. 2005/643/CFSP on the European Union Monitoring Mission in Aceh (Indonesia), OJ 2005 L 234/13.

  37. 37.

    All EU instruments in the field may be coordinated by an EU Special Representative, when appointed. It is interesting to note that the articulation of tasks in integrated EU crisis management operations looks similar to that of UN complex operations: see Chap. 19 by Silingardi, in this volume.

  38. 38.

    Cf. Council of the European Union, Use of the Community Civil Protection Mechanism in the context of civilian crisis management outside the Union, doc. 13728/02, 4 November 2002.

  39. 39.

    Sari 2008.

  40. 40.

    Framework participation agreements do not imply the automatic participation of the third contracting party in EU operations and are without prejudice to the decision-making autonomy of the European Union.

  41. 41.

    For a detailed analysis of the content of participation agreements, see Koutrakos 2012, 167.

  42. 42.

    Cf. recital 19 of the Decision.

  43. 43.

    The Database contains a compilation of voluntary contributions from member States.

  44. 44.

    General Secretariat of the Council, Draft report on the database of military assets and capabilities relevant to the protection of civilian populations, doc. 8587/06, 24 April 2006.

  45. 45.

    General Secretariat of the Council, Military support to EU disaster response: Identification and coordination of available assets and capabilities, doc. 9462/3/06 REV 3, 25 October 2006.

  46. 46.

    Para 63.

  47. 47.

    See Chap. 1 by de Guttry in this volume.

  48. 48.

    See, for instance, Article 56(3) of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Azerbaijan, OJ 1999 L 246/3.

  49. 49.

    Cf. Article 103(3) of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement concluded with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, OJ 2004 L 84/13.

  50. 50.

    OJ 1977 L 240/3.

  51. 51.

    Protocol concerning co-operation in combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by oil and other harmful substances in cases of emergency, OJ 1981 L 162/6; Protocol to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution, concerning co-operation in preventing pollution from ships and, in cases of emergency, combating pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, OJ 2004 L 261/41; Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean OJ 2009 L 34/19.

  52. 52.

    OJ 1984 L 188/9.

  53. 53.

    OJ 1993 L 267/22.

  54. 54.

    OJ 1994 L 73/20.

  55. 55.

    OJ 1998 L 104/2.

  56. 56.

    OJ 1998 L 326/6.

  57. 57.

    OJ 1995 L 186/44.

  58. 58.

    OJ 1997 L 342/19.

  59. 59.

    OJ 1998 L 179/3.

  60. 60.

    OJ 1994 L 33/13.

  61. 61.

    OJ 2002 L 130/4.

  62. 62.

    OJ 1988 L 297/10.

  63. 63.

    OJ 2007 L 81/1.

  64. 64.

    Article 2(d) of the Regulation 300/2007.

  65. 65.

    OJ 2005 L 314/28.

  66. 66.

    OJ 1999 L 318/21.

  67. 67.

    OJ 2003 C 102/2.

  68. 68.

    See, for instance, Article 103(4) of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (supra n. 49).

  69. 69.

    OJ 2002 L 322/33.

  70. 70.

    OJ 2001 L 287/24.

  71. 71.

    COM (2010) 128, 31 March 2010.

  72. 72.

    So, for instance, the Union is party to the 1990 Convention relating to temporary admission (OJ 1993 L 130/4), which contains specific provisions on relief consignments means (i.e., all goods, such as vehicles and other means of transport, blankets, tents, prefabricated houses or other goods of prime necessity, forwarded as aid to those affected by natural disaster and similar catastrophes). Specific provisions on emergency situations are also contained in the EU Customs Code. For more details, see Chap. 22 by Adinolfi, in this volume.

  73. 73.

    Suffice to mention the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (OJ 2004 L 378/3), which stipulates that, in emergency disasters situations, the Parties agree ‘to provide facilitated access to appropriate plant genetic resources for food and agriculture… for the purpose of contributing to the re-establishment of agricultural systems, in co-operation with disaster relief coordinators’ (Article 12(6)).

  74. 74.

    For example, crisis measures in the event of a natural disaster are provided for by the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on the Carriage of Goods and Passengers by Rail and Road, OJ 2002 L 114/91.

  75. 75.

    According to the Court, this principle requires member States to facilitate the achievement of the EU’s tasks and to abstain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty. Furthermore, the member States and the EU institutions have an obligation of close co-operation in fulfilling the commitments undertaken by them under joint competence when they conclude a mixed agreement. See ECJ/GC, Case C-459/03 Commission of the European Communities v Ireland [2006] ECR I-04635, paras 174–175, and Neframi 2010 and 2012.

  76. 76.

    European Convention, Final report of the Working Group VII on External Action, CONV 459/02, 16 December 2002, para 53.

  77. 77.

    Doc. CONV 459/02, supra n. 76, para 57; emphasis added.

  78. 78.

    COM (2005) 153, 20 April 2005; see also Glasius 2006.

  79. 79.

    COM (2008) 130, 5 March 2008.

  80. 80.

    Article 21(3) TEU. That provision shall be read in conjunction with Article 7 TFEU, which states that ‘[t]he Union shall ensure consistency between its policies and activities, taking all of its objectives into account and in accordance with the principle of conferral of powers’.

  81. 81.

    Cremona 2011b, and Duke 2011.

  82. 82.

    Craig 2010, 426.

  83. 83.

    European Union, Press release ‘Catherine Ashton: Rebuilding Haiti is a priority for the EU’, IP/10/24, 15 January 2010.

  84. 84.

    Cremona 2011b, 57.

  85. 85.

    Council Decision No. 2010/427/EU of the Council establishing the organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service, OJ 2010 L 201/30.

  86. 86.

    Article 4(4) of the Council Decision 2010/427.

  87. 87.

    Article 4(3) of the Council Decision 2010/427.

  88. 88.

    See European Union, Press release ‘EU High Representative Catherine Ashton appoints EEAS Managing Director for Crisis Response’, A 244/10, 2 December 2010.

  89. 89.

    COM (2010) 600, supra n. 3, 3 and 8, respectively.

  90. 90.

    COM (2011) 934. For a general survey of the content of the Proposal, see Chap. 5 by Gestri, in this volume.

  91. 91.

    Article 16 also specifies that the Union Delegations shall provide logistical support to the civil protection expert teams and ensure contacts with the government of the affected country.

  92. 92.

    Article 16(10).

  93. 93.

    Cremona 2011a, 13 and Dashwood 2011, 38.

  94. 94.

    This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the new Treaty provision concerning the demarcation of competences between the CFSP and other domains of EU action (Article 40 TEU) introduces a mutual non-affectation clause, according to which also the implementation of the other policies of the Union shall not affect the exercise of the EU competences under the CFSP.

  95. 95.

    According to that principle, ‘[t]he member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence’: Article 2(2) TFEU.

  96. 96.

    Article 214(6).

  97. 97.

    Craig 2010, 394–395.

  98. 98.

    A similar approach has been taken by the framers of the Lisbon Treaty in the formulation of Article 21(1) TEU, which distinguishes the respect of international law from that for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

  99. 99.

    See Chap. 2 by Venturini.

  100. 100.

    Besides, Article 214 explicitly mentions the principle of non-discrimination as a general principle of disaster relief even if such a principle is commonly considered as a component of the principle of impartiality: doc. A/CN.4/629, supra n. 19, paras 31–34.

  101. 101.

    According to Article 6(1) TEU, the Charter shall have the same legal value as the Treaties.

  102. 102.

    Cf. doc. A/CN.4/629, supra n. 19, para 59. Note that the respect for human dignity is also mentioned among the principles which shall govern the external action of the Union (Article 21(1) TEU).

  103. 103.

    Article 26(3) of the Proposal [emphasis added].

  104. 104.

    Besides the Proposal on the EU CPM (supra n. 90), the Commission should adopt legislative proposals on the EU humanitarian aid and the establishment of the European Voluntary Aid Corps.

  105. 105.

    For instance, the Proposal on the new CPM stipulates that ‘[s]ynergies shall be sought with other instruments of the Union, in particular, with actions financed under Regulation (EC) No 1257/96’. Cf. Article 16(11) [emphasis added].

  106. 106.

    The asymmetrical character of coherence in disaster response also emerges from the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. The Document highlights the need to ensure coherence and complementarity in response to crisis, making the most effective use of the various instruments mobilised. However, it significantly only refers to the interaction between EU humanitarian aid and instruments related to crisis management, civil protection and consular assistance (para 22).

  107. 107.

    See supra 6.2.4.


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Casolari, F. (2012). The External Dimension of the EU Disaster Response. In: de Guttry, A., Gestri, M., Venturini, G. (eds) International Disaster Response Law. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague, The Netherlands.

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