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Document 52010IP0326

Commission communication: A community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters European Parliament resolution of 21 September 2010 on the Commission communication: A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters (2009/2151(INI))

OJ C 50E , 21.2.2012, p. 30–37 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)



Official Journal of the European Union

CE 50/30

Tuesday 21 September 2010
Commission communication: A community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters


European Parliament resolution of 21 September 2010 on the Commission communication: A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters (2009/2151(INI))

2012/C 50 E/04

The European Parliament,

having regard to the Commission Communication of 23 February 2009 entitled ‘A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters’ (1) and the corresponding impact assessment (2), and to the Commission working document of 14 December 2007 on strengthening early warning systems in Europe (3),

having regard to its resolutions of 16 September 2009 on forest fires in the summer of 2009 (4), 4 September 2007 on natural disasters (5), 7 September 2006 on forest fires and floods (6), 5 September 2002 on floods in Europe (7), 14 April 2005 on the drought in Portugal (8), 12 May 2005 on the drought in Spain (9), 8 September 2005 on natural disasters (fires and floods) in Europe (10), its resolutions of 18 May 2006 on natural disasters (forest fires, droughts and floods) – agricultural aspects (11), regional development aspects (12) and environmental aspects (13), its resolution of 11 March 2010 on the major natural disaster in the autonomous region of Madeira and the effects of the storm ‘Xynthia’ in Europe (14), and its position of 18 May 2006 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund (15),

having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 June 2008 on reinforcing the Union’s disaster response capacity (16), and points 12 to 15 of the Presidency conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 15-16 June 2006 on the European Union’s responsiveness to emergencies, crises and disasters (17),

having regard to Decision 2007/162/EC, Euratom of 5 March 2007 establishing a Civil Protection Financial Instrument (18),

having regard to Council Directive 96/82/EC of 9 December 1996 on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances (19) (Seveso II Directive),

having regard to Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks (20) (Floods Directive),

having regard to Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (21) (EIA Directive),

having regard to the Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, adopted on 22 January 2005 in Kobe, Hyogo (22),

having regard to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted on 5 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro,

having regard to Article 196 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinions of the Committee on Regional Development, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A7-0227/2010),


whereas prevention should constitute an increasingly important stage in disaster management and be given greater social importance,


whereas natural disasters compromise ecosystems and biodiversity, affect sustainable development and jeopardise social cohesion,


whereas factors such as, inter alia, intensive land use, haphazard industrial and urban growth, abandonment of the countryside, desertification and the increased frequency of extreme weather events make Member States, and convergence regions in particular, more vulnerable to disasters, both natural and man-made,


whereas climate change is causing ever more frequent natural disasters (floods, extreme droughts and fires), resulting in loss of human life and serious environmental, economic and social damage,


whereas disasters generally have many causes, they are not always solely attributable to extreme natural phenomena, but are frequently made more likely by mankind’s flawed relationship with the surrounding physical environment,


whereas disasters may be caused by technological and industrial accidents which can entail the release of dangerous chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) agents with major effects on health, crops, infrastructure, or livestock,


whereas often to a large extent damage caused by natural and man-made disasters could have been prevented; whereas, furthermore, EU policies must ensure consistent incentives for the national, regional and local authorities to develop, fund and implement more efficient prevention and conservation policies,


whereas a holistic, proactive, intelligence-led and effective approach to disaster prevention should incorporate various levels of cooperation between local, regional and national authorities and should also involve other actors with links to and, therefore, a knowledge of the land,


whereas disaster prevention measures in force have been shown to be lacking, and the previous European Parliament proposals have not yet been fully implemented, thus hindering the implementation of a consolidated strategy for the prevention of natural and man-made disasters at EU level,


whereas persistent drought and fires are also speeding up the process of desertification, especially in southern Europe, above all affecting Mediterranean forest areas and extensive woodlands comprising a single, non-native species which is highly vulnerable to fire, threatening the lives of citizens and the quality of life of the populations affected,


whereas the balanced occupation / utilisation of land, economic and social development that are in harmony with nature, respect for energy, natural resources and the environment, reinforced cohesion across the EU, combating rural depopulation, desertification and soil erosion, and maintaining an environmentally sustainable agricultural activity are some of the fundamental elements of disaster prevention,


whereas forests play a crucial role in preserving the environment through the balances created in both the carbon cycle and the water cycle,


Notes that natural and man-made disasters may have very serious consequences for the economic and social development of regions and Member States; points out that the main objective of disaster prevention is to safeguard human life, the safety and physical integrity of individuals, fundamental human rights, the environment, economic and social infrastructures, including basic utilities, housing, communications, transport and the cultural heritage;


Stresses that a proactive approach is more effective and less costly than one based simply on reacting to disasters; takes the view that knowledge of the local geographical, economic and social context is fundamental to the prevention of natural and man-made disasters;


Welcomes the commitment made by the Commission to ensuring that disaster-prevention-related issues are taken into account more coherently in EU policies and programmes, and stresses the need for a holistic approach to disaster prevention; recalls that all types of natural and man-made disasters must be taken into account and that these may include, among other hazards (23), floods, storms, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, extreme temperature events, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, landslides, technological and industrial accidents, soil erosion, contamination of the subsoil and groundwater and pollution of the seas, lakes and rivers;


Invites the Commission to encourage the exchange of good practices between Member States in preventing man-made disasters, and calls on the Member States to ensure that regional authorities undergo disaster management training;


Considers that, given the scale and/or the cross-border nature that disasters may assume, it is appropriate and necessary to enhance cooperation, both at regional and EU level, based on complementarity of action, dissemination of best practices and the principle of solidarity between Member States;


Takes note of the proposal to set up a network made up of representatives of the various competent national services of all the Member States; stresses that this network should operate within the scope of the cooperation between national, regional and local authorities with responsibilities in disaster management, spatial planning and risk mapping and management; emphasises the role of this network in exchanging experience and prevention measures and in establishing a common methodology and minimum requirements for hazard and risk mapping at EU level; calls for the inclusion in this network of representatives from agriculture and for consideration also to be given to hearing UNEP, social and non-governmental organisations working in this area and other actors with links to and, therefore, a knowledge of the land;


Regards as essential cooperation on the dissemination of information and experience, technical and scientific applications and also the coordination of strategies for the development of intervention capacities;


Calls on regions to build on already existing territorial and cross-border coordination networks in order to develop cooperation focusing more specifically on disaster prevention; believes that cross-border cooperation structures, such as the macro-regions, with their functionally-oriented cooperation, can become effective platforms for cooperation in the field of disaster prevention; advocates making use of the valuable experience acquired in this field through projects implemented in the past under the Community’s INTERREG Initiative;


Takes the view that coordinated actions and strategies between Member States, the different sectors and the different actors involved in the disaster management cycle can lead to real advances in the field of disaster prevention; highlights the role that voluntary work can play in these strategies and calls on the Member States to foster cooperation to this end at national, regional and local level; suggests that the possibility be assessed, in the context of the European Year of Volunteering 2011, of organising voluntary work cooperation at Member State level with a view to disaster prevention;


Urges cooperation between Member States, countries neighbouring the EU and developing countries in cross-border projects sharing best practice and disseminating practical knowledge through the EU’s neighbourhood policy programmes and development programmes;


Emphasises that the principle of non-discrimination must be included in aid provision; notes that assistance should be provided on the basis of need, without discrimination based on the race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status of recipients;


Points out that environmental problems, caused and exacerbated by climate change, are currently responsible for a growth of forced migration and therefore wishes to highlight the increasing link between asylum seekers and areas of environmental decline; calls for better protection and resettlement of ‘climate refugees’;


Stresses that it is the regions and local communities that bear the brunt of natural disasters and that, generally speaking, neither their material and human resources nor their know-how or financial resources are sufficient to cope with these disasters under a purely national and/or regional approach, and that these disasters call for an effective European-level solidarity-based response;


Points out the importance of reducing inequalities between regions and Member States in terms of their capacity to protect their populations, and their property, including the cultural heritage, by supporting their efforts to improve prevention, particularly in the regions and Member States that are highly vulnerable to the risk of disasters; urges that particular attention be paid to the most isolated, most sparsely populated, mountainous and border regions of Europe, and the most economically disadvantaged European regions;


Stresses that the natural characteristics and constraints of isolated regions, mountainous regions, regions with low population density and those suffering from depopulation, outlying and outermost regions, islands, naturally disadvantaged regions, as well as regions facing a combination of risks, need to be acknowledged and taken into due account; draws attention to the added difficulties faced by these regions in tackling disasters; asks for special attention to be paid to those regions through the various financial instruments available and calls for the conditions for mobilising the Solidarity Fund for those areas to be made more flexible;


Highlights the need for the Solidarity Fund Regulation to be revised by adapting the eligibility criteria to the characteristics of each region and each disaster, including slowly evolving disasters such as drought, paying particular attention to production sectors, the most vulnerable areas and the populations affected, and enabling mobilisation to be more flexible and timely; considers that the eligible operations listed in Article 4 of the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) are too restrictive; takes the view that, when setting eligibility thresholds, consideration of the regional dimension is vital, as otherwise regions facing very serious disasters can find themselves excluded because the threshold set for the whole Member State is not reached;


Stresses the need to create a suitable financial framework for disaster prevention, with adequate financial resources for preventing and combating disasters, that will strengthen and link existing instruments such as cohesion policy, rural development policy, regional policy, the Solidarity Fund, the Seventh Framework Programme and the Life+ programmes; asks that, in this context, prevention should be taken into account in the 2014-2020 Financial Perspective; calls on the European Commission to assess the possibility of proposing a more systematic pooling of available resources in order to strengthen the effectiveness of prevention mechanisms across the EU;


Urges the Commission to ensure that the current budgetary pressures arising from the crisis do not lead to a reduction in the resources allocated to existing disaster prevention policies and, as part of the current budget review, to carefully assess any gaps in the field of prevention and ascertain whether each type of disaster is covered by the instruments available;


Points out that cohesion policy is an essential tool in natural disaster risk prevention; considers that it must be possible for the various funds and instruments to operate flexibly and in a coordinated manner in order to improve the functioning and effectiveness of that policy; stresses that risk prevention must also dovetail with other policies pursued in the field of prevention, in order to prevent the fragmentation of measures and increase their effectiveness and added value;


Reaffirms the need to verify that EU funds have been used in an adequate manner, and for any misused funds to be repaid;


Emphasises that responsibility for disaster prevention lies primarily with the Member States and that the principle of subsidiarity in this area should continue to be considered;


Calls on the Member States who are responsible for land management to introduce criteria and legislation in order to prevent catastrophes in areas at risk of flood and landslides and other geological risks, taking into account the problems created by indiscriminate deforestation, and furthermore to prevent construction in these areas;


Invites the Member States to assess the possibility of improving the inclusion of disaster prevention in national operational programming of EU funding, as well as in national, regional and local operational programmes; considers that all public actors involved in environmental protection should be engaged and participate effectively in this process; urges the Commission to support the need to reformulate the operational programmes identified by Member States in this area; with a view to exchanging experience, asks the Commission to invite Member States to supply details of their operational programmes in place for dealing with natural and man-made disasters;


Considers that, inter alia, the following prevention measures should be the subject of priority support from the EU to the Member States:


drafting and revising building safety and land use legislation;


action to remedy situations conducive to future risks: renaturalising river beds; restoring and protecting river basins, wetlands and related eco-systems; monitoring erosion and sedimentation in water courses; increasing the through-flow capacity of bridges and water pipelines; clearing up and reordering forests; reforestation; and protecting and defending the coastline;


protecting and refurbishing inhabited areas, especially urban areas, that are particularly vulnerable to certain types of disasters, with the involvement of residents;


maintaining and inspecting the safety of existing major infrastructures, with particular emphasis on dams, fuel pipelines, road and rail bridges, energy, water supply, sanitation, communications and telecommunications facilities;


sustaining the agricultural activity in areas affected by depopulation and subject to the risk of natural disasters, and contributing to the reintegration of human activity by creating infrastructures to enable those who live in such areas to remain on the territory;


Calls on the Commission to support Member States in promoting awareness-raising campaigns for prevention and in adopting best practices, providing relevant updated information and training to the general public through channels that are easily accessible to all citizens on identified risks and procedures to be adopted when faced with natural or man-made disaster situations; urges that, in training schemes for populations, particular attention be paid to young people from school age on and to rural communities; in the context of public awareness-raising, stresses also the role of the European single emergency telephone line ‘112’ and the need to make it better known;


Recalls that water is often involved in natural disasters, not only in floods – often due to inadequate planning – frost, hail and contamination of river basins, but also through its scarcity, which can wreak significant change, such as the desertification of large areas of southern Europe and south-eastern Europe;


Highlights the fact that persistent droughts have in recent years encouraged the proliferation of forest fires in Europe, at the same time worsening the desertification of a large number of regions;


In view of the interconnections between drought, forest fires and desertification, calls on the Commission to present a proposal for a directive, similar to the directive on floods, to promote the adoption of an EU policy on water scarcity, drought and adaptation to climate change;


Reiterates its call on the Commission to promote the entry into operation of the European Drought and Desertification Observatory which would be responsible for studying, mitigating and monitoring the effects of droughts and desertification, aiming to enhance sound, strategic decision-making and better coordination between Member States; considers that the interconnections between drought, forest fires, desertification and climate change adaptation should be taken into consideration and that serious and solidarity-based objectives should be set in the context of drought risk prevention and management policy;


Since forests are important for the production of wood, maintaining biodiversity, the prevention of floods, avalanches and erosion, management of groundwater resources and carbon capture, the fact that they are threatened by fire should be an issue of concern to all Member States; therefore calls on the Commission to present and to carry out, together with the Member States, legislative proposals and initiatives in the area of forest protection and fire prevention; considers that forestation and reforestation projects should be supported, with preference given to native species and mixed forests, to encourage biodiversity and greater resistance to fire, storms and disease, as well as the sustained collection and use of residual forest biomass - a renewable energy source; considers that, within the framework of a genuine cooperation in this domain, the regular collection of data, preparation of risk maps, preparation of fire risk management plans, identification of the resources needed and those available in the 27 Member States and coordination at different levels should be carried on;


Given that the starting of fires and the increase in their frequency are by nature environmental offences, calls on the Commission to study and propose to the Council and the European Parliament ways of implementing coercive measures which will discourage negligence and deliberate action in the starting of fires;


Highlights the importance of viewing prevention from a cross-cutting perspective, incorporating it in the relevant sectoral policies to promote balanced land occupation and cohesive economic and social development that is in tune with nature;


Recognises that some sectoral policies have led to certain regions being more exposed to risk by encouraging abandonment of the countryside and excessive concentration of the population in urban areas;


Considers that agricultural and forestry production are vulnerable to climatic phenomena such as drought, frost, ice, hail, forest fires, storms, floods, torrential rainfall and storms, to health risks such as pest infestations, animal diseases, epidemics, and epizootics, to destruction due to wild animals, and to consequences of human activities like climate change, pollution, acid rain and unintentional and deliberate genetic contamination, to landslides because of problems related to urban and regional planning, to technological and transport-related hazards, to the desertification of mountain areas and to forest fires primarily due to absence of forest maintenance and criminal behaviour, and to contamination of rivers due to chemical discharges from factories, nutrient leakage and the negligence of forest visitors;


Calls on the Commission and the Member States to encourage the implementation of good agricultural practices, which in some Member States has made it possible to halve infiltration of nitrogen-based fertilisers without reducing crop yields;


Advocates, as an essential element in the effective prevention of natural disasters, an environmentally and socially balanced agricultural policy that takes into account the need to support and stimulate sustainable agricultural production and rural development in the various countries and regions; advocates effectively strengthening incentives for agro-environmental and agro-rural jobs, encouraging people to settle in rural areas, as a key factor in conserving ecosystems, tackling the current trend of depopulation and impoverishment of these locations and relieving the pressure on urban areas; furthermore, highlights the role played by farmers as custodians of the countryside and regrets the insufficiency of key elements concerning the agricultural sector in the Commission communication;


Advocates the creation of an European agricultural public insurance scheme; urges the Commission to come forward with a proposal for an European public insurance system to better address the risk and income instability of farmers related to natural and man-made disasters; stresses that it must be more ambitious than the present model in order to avoid a multiplicity of different insurance schemes in the EU, creating huge imbalances between farmers’ incomes; considers it urgent for a minimum compensation scheme for natural or man-made disasters to also be accessible to farmers across all Member States;


Calls on the Commission and Member States to include in the calculation of agri-environmental premiums the additional costs borne by farmers in order to take measures designed to prevent fires (such as cleaning of firebreaks, removal of dead arboreal plants, working of the soil along the perimeter of land parcels, etc.) and to dispose of water (cleaning of collecting ditches and canals);


Points out the importance of studying rural and urban adaptation measures, given the increased frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events in various geographical areas; considers that foreseeable negative effects of climate change will represent an additional constraint for agricultural activity and food security and sovereignty, and stresses the need to respond to this and to other challenges in the context of adapting to climate change and reducing its negative effects;


Emphasises the importance of public research and development (R&D) in preventing and managing disasters and calls for increased coordination and cooperation between the R&D institutions of Member States, especially those facing similar risks; calls for enhanced early warning systems in Member States and the creation and strengthening of links between the various early warning systems; recommends to the Commission that it should take due note of these needs and ensure appropriate funding;


Stresses the need to prepare the healthcare systems of the Member States from the point of view of human resource structure, good practice and risk awareness so that they are able to cope with disaster situations;


Underlines that it is important to have a comprehensive collection of data and information on the risks and costs of disasters and to share them at EU level, with a view to carrying out comparative studies and determining the likely cross-border impact of the disasters, thus making it possible for Member States to pool information on national civil capabilities and medical resources, and that we should use and develop already existing structures such as the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) rather than build up new ones;


Regrets the fact that the Commission has still not carried out a study on hazard and risk mapping practices in the Member States, as provided for in its Communication of 23 February 2009 on ‘A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters’; urges the Commission to make good on this commitment in an effective way during the first half of 2010;


Considers that a common methodology and minimum requirements for hazard and risk mapping need to be established at EU level;


Underlines the importance of drawing up standards to analyse and express the socio-economic impact of disasters on communities;


Recommends that issues relating to disaster prevention should be more fully included in the revision of the EIA Directive, particularly with regard to the assessment, communication and publicising of risks;


Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of the Member States.

(1)  COM(2009)0082.

(2)  SEC(2009)0202.

(3)  SEC(2007)1721.

(4)  OJ C 224 E, 19.8.2010, p. 1.

(5)  OJ C 187 E, 24.7.2008, p. 55.

(6)  OJ C 305 E, 14.12.2006, p. 240.

(7)  OJ C 272 E, 13.11.2003, p. 471.

(8)  OJ C 33 E, 9.2.2006, p. 599.

(9)  OJ C 92 E, 20.4.2006, p. 414.

(10)  OJ C 193 E, 17.8.2006, p. 322.

(11)  OJ C 297 E, 7.12.2006, p. 363.

(12)  OJ C 297 E, 7.12.2006, p. 369.

(13)  OJ C 297 E, 7.12.2006, p. 375.

(14)  Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0065.

(15)  OJ C 297 E, 7.12.2006, p. 331.

(16)  10128/08.

(17)  10633/1/06.

(18)  OJ L 71, 10.3.2007, p. 9.

(19)  OJ L 10, 14.1.1997, p. 13.

(20)  OJ L 288, 6.11.2007, p. 27.

(21)  OJ L 175, 5.7.1985, p. 40.

(22)  A/CONF.206/6.

(23)  This is a non-exhaustive list of natural and man-made disasters; therefore other types of natural and man-made disaster which are not set out in this report may be included in the list.