The EU coordinates national policies to combat major cross-border threats to public health, including deliberate or accidental release of CBRN agents. The EU also develops CBRN preparedness and response plans at the EU-level.

What are CBRN threats?

EU preparedness focuses on all types of CBRN hazard – man-made, natural, accidental or deliberate, e.g. deliberate contamination of drinking water, accidental radio-nuclear contamination or the emergence of a new infectious disease including those that take the form of a pandemic.

EU activities

EU-level CBRN preparedness/response activities include:

  • crisis-management arrangements and strategies
  • communication systems linking up EU countries
  • expert advice on prevention, treatment and mitigation
  • health risk assessments
  • promoting research in CBRN related topics

Organisational framework for CBRN threats in the EU

The EU Health Security Committee, with representatives from all EU countries, is the key coordination body for health security in the EU. The three sections of the HSC are (i) CBRN, (ii) influenza and (iii) generic preparedness planning.

Global Health Security Initiative

The Global Health Security Initiative is a partnership of health officials from the G7 countries, Mexico, and the European Commission, with WHO participating as observer.

It provides a platform for health security preparedness at global level and provides advice during health emergencies.

Examples of recent CBRN-E incidents:

  • Tokyo subway sarin attack (Japan – 1995)
  • VX assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur airport (Malaysia – 2017)
  • Polonium-210 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko (UK – 2006)
  • Dirty bomb retrieved (but not detonated) at Ismailovsky Park, Moscow (Russia – 1995)
  • Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak that started in Germany but also affected more than 16 countries with more than 3200 reported diseased and 35 death cases (2012)
  • Anthrax and ricin letters (USA – 2001-2013)

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