EU’s common reserve of rescue equipment and medical supplies to be located in Finland
The European Commission is funding the EU’s first chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear strategic reserve in Finland, under rescEU, which includes personal protective equipment, measuring equipment, pharmaceuticals and antibodies in Finland for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear accidents.
The rescue equipment and medical supplies are intended to protect both first responders and the civilian population. The project will run until autumn 2026. Its budget is EUR 242 million. The project is very significant in scale and the first of its kind.
“The stockpiles to be established in Finland will improve the European Union’s strategic preparedness and readiness to respond to different kinds of threats, especially in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. In the changed security environment, the EU’s joint preparedness is more important than ever,” says Minister of the Interior Krista Mikkonen.
“With this project, Finland will become an important player in increasing European security. At the same time, the project will strengthen our national preparedness,” says Mikkonen.
”Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has confirmed the need to strengthen the EU CBRN preparedness. That’s why, the rescEU CBRN reserves will provide the EU with a significant safety pillow enabling a quick and coordinated response at EU level. I would like to congratulate Finland for being the first Member State to develop a CBRN strategic reserve under rescEU”, says European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič.
The Ministry of the Interior will carry out the project in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the National Emergency Supply Agency and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.
12-hour response time
It must be possible to send the stored material to a disaster or crisis area within 12 hours the offer of assistance being accepted. The first quantities of supplies are scheduled to be available in 2024.
“Over the course of this year, the project will set up alert and logistics processes for sending the material acquired to those in need of assistance. A broad-based cross-sectoral network is involved in this work,” says Kimmo Kohvakka, Director General for Rescue Services.
“The material is made up of several modules, each containing the necessary material to equip 100 first responders in CBRN incidents for 14 days, 24 hours a day,” says Kohvakka.
The healthcare and social welfare sector plays an important role in the project, because the reserve also includes medical supplies. Many medicines and antidotes used in CBRN incidents are rare and are needed extremely rarely.
“While the supplies are intended for EU-wide use, they also improve Finland’s national preparedness. Finland already has a well-functioning system for obligatory stockpiling of medicines that has enabled us to secure the availability of medicines better than other EU countries even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Director General Taneli Puumalainen from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Cross-border antidote preparedness
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare will be responsible for a project to store antidotes for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
“The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has solid, recent experience of the procurement of medicinal products and national preparedness, which provides a good basis for preparedness on the European level,” says Toni Relander, Director of Pharmaceutical Wholesale at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
Radiation meters for both accidents and public events
In the project, the task of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) is above all to support the National Emergency Supply Agency in the acquisition and maintenance of radiation measurement equipment.
“We are in the process of purchasing equipment that can be used in both major radiation accidents and in security arrangements for large public events, for example. Individual countries do not have sufficient measurement capacity and expert resources to respond to large-scale radiation accidents, and this project is a welcome addition to European preparedness for radiation incidents,” says Director Karim Peltonen from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.
A unique opportunity to promote common stockpiles
The National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA) will be responsible for the procurement, storage, maintenance and recycling of personal protective equipment, measurement equipment and support equipment specified in the project for the duration of the project. The products are intended for use by prehospital emergency medical services and the civilian population.
“NESA will bring significant experience of procurement, storage and logistics arrangements to the project. Future work will provide a unique opportunity to promote preparedness, contingency planning and common stockpiles. It will also intensify cooperation with the European Commission, other Member States and Finland’s consortium,” says Janne Känkänen, CEO of the National Emergency Supply Agency.
The EU has common material reserves and national pools at its disposal
In October 2001, the European Commission established the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The Mechanism aims to strengthen cooperation between the EU countries and 8 participating states on civil protection to improve prevention, preparedness, and response to disasters.
To guarantee an effective response to disasters, rescEU was established in 2019, upgrading the EU Civil Protection Mechanism as an additional layer of protection to protect citizens from disasters and manage emerging risks. It is fully financed by the EU.
When an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country in Europe and beyond, it can request assistance through the Mechanism to the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC), which can facilitate the deployment of emergency response capabilities and teams under the Mechanism.