The Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM of Russia) is the main partner of EU structures working in the field of civil protection, emergencies prevention and response, as well as providing humanitarian assistance.
One of the main functions of EMERCOM is international cooperation in the fields of emergency management, civil protection, search and rescue, ensuring fire safety and safety of people on water objects, performing special underwater operations, as well as providing support to international humanitarian projects, programmes and operations.
Cooperation in civil protection is implemented in accordance with the Administrative Arrangement (22 March 2013) between EMERCOM and the European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO) on practical cooperation in the field of civil protection.
Each year expert delegations from EMERCOM and DG ECHO exchange visits to learn about activities of partners in emergency management. Operational exchange of information in this area is performed between the Russian National Emergencies Management Centre (NEMC) and the EU Emergency Response Сoordination Centre (EU ERCC).
Since 2006, EMERCOM staff has been regularly invited to attend EU Civil Protection Courses. So far, 10 EMERCOM specialists have attended various courses and received EU certificates. They were also included in a special roster and can be selected to take part in EU emergency humanitarian operations.
In June 2007 EMERCOM observers took part in a civil protection exercise «EULUX-2007» in Luxemburg. In April 2008 EMERCOM firefighting aviation participated in a special EU exercise «FIRE 5» on Sardinia, Italy. During that exercise firefighting aviation units from Portugal, France, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Russia practiced cooperation in combating forests fires. As a result of the exercise, a prototype international aviation squadron for combating forest fires was established.
Upon requests from Governments of European states or from EU ERCC various EMERCOM personnel and means can be involved to support EU Civil Protection Mechanism in preventing and handling natural and man-caused disasters. During large-scale forest fires in Southern Europe (summer 2007) EMERCOM of Russia deployed a Beriev-200 amphibious aircraft to Portugal, two Mi-26 and Mi-8 helicopters to Greece, as well as an IL-76 plane to Bulgaria. Russian personnel supported the EU efforts in operations against forest fires and contributed significantly to their elimination.
EMERCOM experts worked together with specialists from the Italian Civil Protection Department in Aquila, Italy on assessing stability of buildings and constructions damaged by the devastating earthquake in April 2009. During that operation EMERCOM specialists inspected 21 private and administrative buildings of total area of 90 000 sq.m.
In summer 2010 some of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism Participating States (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) provided their personnel and means, including firefighting air assets, for the international operation on combating natural fires in the European part of Russia. They sent necessary relief items, as well as received EMERCOM firefighters for post-disaster rehabilitation. This has demonstrated once again solidarity and tendency to mutual integration of European efforts in handling emergencies.
In November 2010, for the first time in the history of cooperation with the EU in this area, EMERCOM of Russia was invited to participate in a full-scale field exercise of the EU emergency services «TEREX-2010» held in Tuscany region, central Italy. That exercise was aimed at practicing all aspects of international response to a devastating earthquake with aftermath typical for Europe. Besides Italy, as the host country, rescue and medical units from Austria, Croatia, France and Slovenia participated. Russia was represented by a multi-purpose airmobile task force which included urban search and rescue team with K-9 units, field hospital with a module of emergency psychological support, as well as a structural assessment team.
In September 2011 EMERCOM experts as part of an international observer team participated in the EU exercise «CARPATHEX-2011» held in Poland. The exercise was aimed at practicing safety provisions during a mass sport event, so it was very useful bearing in mind preparation for 22-nd Olympic Winter Games and 11-th Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi.
Nowadays cooperation between EMERCOM of Russia and the EU is developing in the following main areas:
- staff training in prevention and emergency response;
- exchange of information between NEMC and EU ERCC on various natural and man-caused disasters;
- exchange of experts, participation in conferences and exercises;
- providing mutual assistance in handling emergencies;
- joint response to disasters, including in third countries;
- joint programmes and projects in the field of prevention and emergency response.
Progressive enhancement of EU and EMERCOM capacities in response to disasters, activities in civil protection and dynamic development of cooperation in the area of emergency prevention creates favourable conditions for finding new approaches to cooperation between Russia and the EU in this area which is to be reflected in the New Russia-EU Basic Agreement.