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Prevention of natural or man-made disasters in the European Union

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Prevention of natural or man-made disasters in the European Union

The introduction of a Community approach is necessary in order to better anticipate and manage natural or man-made disasters that occur in the European Union (EU). In this regard, certain types of intervention may be implemented at Community level.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 23 February 2009 - A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man made disasters [COM(2009) 82 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


Community territory is affected by natural or man-made disasters, the number and impact of which is rising. This increasing vulnerability is caused in particular by the effects of climate change and by urban and industrial development.

The strategy is part of a set of instruments with both an external and an internal dimension. It does not cover emergencies related to conflicts or acts of terrorism.

The measures taken regarding disaster prevention are mainly at national level. Disaster prevention should nevertheless be approached at European level, since hazards often have cross-border impact and effects on the growth and competitiveness of the European Union (EU).

A Community approach should enhance the effectiveness of prevention action by adding to national actions in certain areas. This strategy is therefore based on three main themes:

  • Developing existing knowledge, so as to improve the effectiveness of prevention policies.

The Commission should facilitate the production of information and its comparability with regard to disaster factors. It will carry out an inventory of information sources and best practices, and dissemination of best practices in risk management procedures (land use planning, emergency plans, etc.). Risk areas should be mapped according to guidelines prepared at European level.

The 7th Research and Development Framework Programme (RDFP) supports the coordination of research activities and the dissemination of information on disaster risks.

  • Extending cooperation of actors involved in disaster management.

Prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities should be based on coordinated mechanisms involving public and private actors. The creation of a network of those responsible at national level and specialists should serve to improve the coordination of Community, national and regional measures.

Links between detection and early warning systems should be developed, including in cooperation with Mediterranean third countries. The Commission must further develop the evaluation of the Civil Protection Mechanism and training will be carried out within the framework of the civil protection programme. Citizens should be better informed about prevention measures, as well as the existence of the emergency number 112 (pdf).

  • Targeting legislative and financial instruments for prevention action.

Within the framework of the 2007-2013 budget, the Commission should identify the Community instruments which could finance prevention measures (for example in the areas of rural development, civil protection, environmental protection, research and information and communication technologies). If necessary, the Commission shall make recommendations for the integration of these measures in national operational programmes.

When certain legislative provisions are amended, the constraints related to disaster risk management should be better addressed. The following are particularly concerned: the SEA Directive on the environmental impact of public and private projects, the SEVESO Directive on technological risks and the provisions concerning technical standards of anti-seismic construction. European legislation also covers flood management and oil spills.

International cooperation

This strategy should be implemented in cooperation with Candidate countries or potential Candidates for accession, with Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) partner countries and as part of the programme for prevention, preparedness and response to natural and man-made disasters (PPRD) within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

The Commission will coordinate these actions with the European strategy for the reduction of risks in developing countries. This is to be in line with the international Hyogo Framework for Action 2005 - 2015 for disaster prevention.

Last updated: 14.05.2009