The European Commission has stepped up efforts to push the use of the toll-free emergency number 112 in the EU ahead of the summer holiday season.

A new website has been launched to tell citizens how to use 112 and what to expect from it, particularly when they travel within the EU.

The website shows how the 112 emergency number functions in each EU member country: how quickly calls are answered and in which languages. So far the website is only available in English, but other languages are promised to follow.

Based on the information provided by Member States, it compares the performance of national authorities in implementing EU rules on 112 and highlights best practices. At least 97% of 112 calls are answered within 20 seconds in the Czech Republic, Spain and the United Kingdom, and at least 71% within 10 seconds in the Netherlands and Finland.

"The millions of EU citizens going on holidays this summer only need to remember one emergency number 112,” said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Commissioner Reding added: "While 112 is now available in all but one country across the EU, I call on Member States to make 112 better known and more effective. All EU citizens should know they can dial 112 to reach emergency services.”

She urged EU countries to introduce caller location, to help emergency services find accident victims. She also urged rapid action from the Bulgarian authorities to finally make 112 available nationally.

In February, the Commission asked national authorities to improve public awareness of 112, after a survey showed that only 22% of EU were aware they can call 112 throughout Europe in an emergency.

The new 112 website gives details of which EU countries report they can answer 112 calls in foreign EU languages. 112 emergency call centres can normally handle English calls in 16 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden).

Seven countries said their call centres can answer in the language of a bordering Member State (Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovenia). Several countries have special arrangements allowing call centres to answer in other foreign languages such as forwarding them to other call centres with competent staff on duty (the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovenia and Spain) or to interpretation services (Finland, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK).

The 112 website also reports on shortcomings, including the fact 112 is still not fully available in Bulgaria. Six countries are reported to not provide caller location for mobile 112 calls (Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia).

The European emergency number 112 was introduced in 1991 to provide, in addition to national emergency numbers, a single emergency call number in all EU Member States to make emergency services more accessible, especially for travellers.

Since 1998, EU rules require Member States to ensure that all fixed and mobile phone users can call 112 free of charge. Since 2003, telecoms operators must provide caller location information to emergency services so that they can find accident victims quickly. EU Member States are also required to raise citizens’ awareness of 112.