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European Commission Press Release
Brussels, 26 February 2001




The General Affairs Council adopted today a Commission proposal for a Regulation for the establishment of a Rapid Reaction Mechanism. This mechanism is designed to enhance the EU's civilian capacity to intervene fast and effectively in crisis situations in third countries. It will provide the flexibility to mobilise Community instruments to be deployed quickly, whenever necessary. Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said: "Conflict prevention and crisis management are at the heart of the EU's Foreign and Security Policy agenda. The new Rapid Reaction Mechanism will act as a catalyser, allowing us to mobilise resources within hours or days rather than weeks or months. We will now be in a better position to organise and support the mobilisation of Member States civilian experts (in areas such as mine clearence, customs, mediation, training of police or judges) in crisis situations. In times of urgent needs we cannot anymore afford the luxury to be bogged down by bureaucratic constraints and deliver Community instruments with unnecessary delays."

The Helsinki European Council called on the Commission in December 1999 to set up a Rapid Reaction Facility as part of its decisions on the creation of a European Security and Defence Policy.

The procedural, budgetary and geographical limits of each and every Community instrument was one of the reasons of the overall inadequacy of our aid instruments to urgent needs. This mechanism will, for the short lapse of time of 6 months, untie the strings around Community instruments and will release their potential and focus where urgent conditions require quick action.
The basis of the Mechanism remain existing Community instruments capable of providing a large spectrum of actions and reactions. Community instruments will, in turn, remain the key of any possible follow-up measure which might be required after the first emergency operation has elapsed.

The added value of the RRM as opposed to existing Community instruments is its speed and flexibility in situations of high tension immediately prior, during and after crises; it will enable short term interventions to be carried out; it has world-wide coverage and can mix a number of measures under one intervention according to the needs of the crisis. This will enable the EU to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach in security-related measures abroad while increasing EU visibility and efficiency.

The scope of the RRM draws on existing Community instruments which are listed in an annex to the Regulation. All these instruments pursue the alleviation of crises, through human rights work, election monitoring, institution building, media support, border management, humanitarian missions, police training and the provision of police equipment, civil emergency assistance, rehabilitation, reconstruction, pacification, resettlement and mediation.

The main purpose of the RRM is to deliver these and other instruments as rapid stabilisers and as precursors for eventual longer-term assistance.

A dividing line has been drawn between the scope of this facility and the regulation concerning humanitarian aid. Humanitarian action is focused on the individual. It seeks to preserve life and relieve human suffering. Interventions under the RRF are rather aimed at the preservation or reestablishment of the civic structures necessary for political, social and economic stability. While ECHO is politically neutral, the RRM is intended to operate in the context of crisis management.

The RRM will operate through a separate budget line reinforced by the authority of the Commission to decide quickly on urgent interventions. The total endowment within the budget for 2001 amounts to 20 million and for 2002 to 25 million in the financial perspectives.