The scheme for provision of emergency assistance within the European Union was adopted on 15 March 2016. Henceforth, humanitarian assistance, which is generally conceived as a tool for developing the external action of the Union, can be deployed on European soil.
On 15 March 2016, the regulation on the provision of emergency support within the Union was adopted. It stipulates that emergency humanitarian assistance may be awarded exclusively in the event of an ongoing or potential natural or man-made disaster on the European territory. Previously, the rules of the European Union permitted the award of funds for humanitarian assistance only in third countries. Henceforth, funds for emergency humanitarian assistance can be allocated within the European territory.
This decision is in line with the current context of influx of migrants and refugees in Europe. Indeed, one of the first activation of emergency humanitarian assistance was made in Greece where migrants and refugees are stuck at the border of the country and need immediate help. Thus, 198 million euro was disbursed to the greek State so that these displaced populations could benefit from shelter, food, better hygiene, space for children, education and assistance in terms of family reunification.
However, emergency assistance is not limited to the current refugee crisis. The Regulation of 15 March 2016 aims to fill the gaps of an appropriate instrument available at Union level to address on a predictable and independent basis the humanitarian needs of disasterstricken people within the Union. Even if the Union were already in a position to award a macro-financial support to the Member States through the EU Solidarity Fund, it did not have a mechanism such as emergency humanitarian assistance. Emergency assistance can now also be used in other crises or disasters with significant humanitarian consequences such as terrorist attacks, epidemics or nuclear accidents.
In practical terms, implementation takes place via partner organisations such as UN agencies, NGOs, international organisations or specialised services of the Member States and supervised by DG ECHO. The distribution, scope and scale of emergency support will be determined on the basis of the specific needs of each Member State.