EU Civil Protection Mechanism – post-earthquake relief

Lidija Knežević,

On Friday, January 29, it was exactly a month since the 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit Sisak-Moslavina County, leaving unforeseeable consequences for space and people. During those first months, another 622 earthquakes of magnitude greater than or equal to 2.0 followed, which further traumatized the citizens of the affected area, but also caused new damage to buildings. The earthquake killed a total of 7 people – one girl in Petrinja, five people died in the Glina area (primarily in the village of Majske Poljana), and one person in Zazina. Thirty-six people were injured and another 30 were rescued from the rubble. Subsequently, 2 more volunteers were killed while clearing the ruins. About 8,000 families were left homeless, and the material damage to public infrastructure amounted to hundreds of millions of kunas. According to the data presented at the press conference of the Civil Protection Headquarters on Friday, ie the part of it dealing with the earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, a total of 45,347 claims were received by January 29, of which 59.13% or 26,815 were reviewed. facilities. Of the inspected objects, 3,134 objects (category with red sticker) are unusable, 5,428 objects (yellow sticker) are temporarily unusable, while the most objects are usable or usable with a recommendation – 16,125. So far, 3,384 people have left their place of residence (registered through the Red Cross search service) – of which 478 people are temporarily located in the earthquake-affected area, while 2,669 are in other parts of Croatia. The exact location is still being determined for 237 people.

All these dry statistics cannot show the daily state of affairs in Banja – the constant shaking of the soil, cold and humidity, and the uncertainty that is especially present in the villages around Petrinja and Glina. There, all hopes are still placed in good people who bring food for people and livestock, water and medicine, warm clothes and heaters, and even a roof over their heads – prefabricated and mobile homes are currently a lifeline for many families. Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved announced the start of public works on February 1, and from Saturday – January 30 – the beginning of the second phase, ie the removal of buildings that must inevitably be demolished. However, requests for reconstruction in the Banija area will begin to be received within a month, announced Construction Minister Darko Horvat, whose ministry is now finalizing the forms and procedure for issuing the right to a certain degree of reconstruction. At last week’s 40th session of the Government (held on January 28), Deputy Prime Minister Medved said that a total of 928 containers and mobile homes had been set up in the areas affected by the earthquake, but that the requests for priority disposal had not yet been fully resolved. Another 451 containers have been announced for delivery.

EU – fast, coordinated and efficient

Immediately after the earthquake, it was clear that Croatia would not be able to cope with this catastrophe on its own. That is why the Croatian Government activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism on the same day – a coordinated response to natural and man-made disasters. This time, the third goal of the Mechanism was to be provided – to provide rapid and effective assistance to the affected population. Through the Civil Protection Mechanism, Croatia requested winter tents for 6 to 8 people, lamps with PVC mesh protection, light bulbs / lighting towers, electric heaters, folding beds, sleeping bags and housing containers.

In the first 24 hours after the devastating earthquake, 15 EU member states and partner countries offered sleeping bags, mattresses, housing containers and lighting fixtures, and neighboring Slovenia, through its Ministry of Defense, separated and sent 4 containers and 10 tents to Croatia on December 29. , 10 heaters, 100 beds and 300 sleeping bags. A day later – December 30 – aid is sent by Italy (80 tents in containers), Slovakia (44 heaters, 120 sleeping bags), Hungary (250 beds and 250 sleeping bags), Greece (53 tents, 51 wood stoves, 665 sleeping bag, 900 beds) and Austria (78 containers, 200 lighting fixtures, 3 lighting bulbs, 14 heaters and 470 beds). On New Year’s Eve, December 31, aid is sent by Romania (50 tents, 100 beds ,, 200 sleeping bags, 14 containers) and the Czech Republic (600 beds, 1200 sleeping bags, 10 heaters, 1 light tower, 2 lamps, and 1200 blanket), while on the first day of the New Year help arrives from Portugal (500 beds), Bulgaria (100 heaters, a total of 500 beds – of which beds with mattresses 284, beds 16, field beds 200), France (240 tents), Turkey 272 heaters) and Lithuania (300 sleeping bags).

In the coming days, aid will arrive from Sweden and Poland, as well as new quantities of various material resources from Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey and Slovenia. On 31 December, Croatia reiterated its call for assistance through the Civil Protection Mechanism – this time explicitly requesting housing containers. Additional containers were again sent by Slovenia, as well as Turkey, which sent 100 containers by sea and air, as well as Germany (donation of 40 housing containers) and Hungary (by bilateral agreement). Croatia provided accommodation – accommodation and meals – for teams from Romania, France, Sweden and Turkey, and provided logistical support to representatives of the EC (EU Civil Protection team) in the mission of monitoring assistance and visibility from 31 December to 2 January. . We also asked the Ministry of the Interior, ie the Directorate of Civil Protection, whether all these donated funds fulfilled their purpose and were allocated to the citizens of Banija, but we have not (yet) received an answer.

Meanhwile, in commodity stocks…

In the first 6 days, 980 tents arrived in Croatia through the Civil Protection Mechanism, but it quickly became clear that only a minimal number of tents were used, while at the same time, according to Economy Minister Tomislav Coric, Croatian Commodity Stocks had more than 1,600 tents with capacity. 25,000 people, not used. Why Croatia requested tents through the Civil Protection Mechanism has not been clarified, and the head of the Civil Protection Headquarters, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, admitted that tents are not used because “they are not the best solution for these weather conditions.” “It’s hard to make sure they’re warm enough. If they were, it would mean high fuel consumption. They will be used in accordance with the need, “Bozinovic said at a press conference on January 4 this year. Thus, most European tents remained unused.

On the example of tents, the issue of the state of state goods stocks is also open. According to Economy Minister Tomislav Coric, the state’s stockpiles have 298 containers, but they are mostly used in front of hospitals and health centers for the needs of patients and patients, 76 containers were used by the victims of the Zagreb earthquake in March last year. in Sisak-Moslavina County. One week before the Banija earthquake, on December 22 last year, the Directorate of Commodity Stocks launched a public procurement, on the basis of which it intends to deliver 41 containers to Sisak-Moslavina County. Ćorić’s explanation that “any country the size of Croatia with 300 containers in stock could cover needs”, but the problem arose when Croatia was hit by three disasters (two earthquakes and an epidemic), is quite pathetic and shows outdated methods of thinking (future) challenges. Even worse is Ćorić’s statement that “Croatia has 1,600 tents, significantly larger quantities of bags”, but “neither the tents nor the bags have expressed the needs of the last six days (from December 29, 2020 to April 4, 2021, op. Cit.), even though we delivered one quantity to the warehouses, if there is a need for them ”- so, at the moment when the European Union is being asked for help with material resources, no one remembered to ask the Directorate of Commodity Stocks for the same ?! Moreover, the same “Someone” asked the EU for tents that are not adequate due to low temperatures, which was Ćorić’s explanation for the lack of requirements for commodity stocks! That, in turn, is an incredible amount of sloppiness and unpreparedness for crisis management. Practically nothing is known about the state of Croatian commodity stocks, the Government discusses them in closed sessions, and in the past investigative commissions have been established due to established shortages of certain goods.

Donor and recipient of assistance

Although the 2014 floods affected more than 7,000 people, until the December 2020 earthquake, Croatia only once requested the activation of the Civil Protection Mechanism – in 2015 during the great wave of refugees. Seven countries of the European Union responded to the Croatian request at the time and sent the material resources necessary for the temporary accommodation of migrants – beds and sleeping bags, blankets, tent heaters, and the like. But Croatia also responded to the call for help – the last such case was in November 2019, when an earthquake of 6.4 on the Richter scale hit Albania. Through the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) of the Civil Protection Mechanism, Albania requested international assistance, and Croatia responded by sending teams with search and rescue dogs – a total of 15 members of the Civil Protection Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior and 8 search dogs, and two helicopters from the Croatian Air Force. In the same way – through the ERCC – a little over a year later, Croatia activated the Civil Protection Mechanism for emergency care in the shortest possible time. And that is one of the main goals of this European tool – quick and coordinated assistance in the first days of the crisis. But this does not mean that European aid and domestic solidarity (as seen through the countless volunteers who came to help the population in Banja) will replace the semi-effective Croatian responses to the crisis. Now that it has felt the harsh reality of a major natural disaster, Croatia should learn lessons and build an appropriate response system not to one crisis, but to at least three, which have shown their teeth to Croatia in practice over the past year.

This material was created with the financial support of the European Union within the project “Towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world – EU Presidency Project 2019 – 2021”. The author is solely responsible for the content and cannot be considered the official position of the European Union.