The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) was founded in 1975, following a recommendation from the European Seismological Commission (ESC). The ESC is a regional commission of the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior (IASPEI), itself a specialized association of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG).
The recommendation was based on the consideration that the European-Mediterranean region displayed a potentially dangerous seismic activity. Consequently, for reasons of protection of society and evaluation of earthquake danger, it was necessary that a scientific body undertook the very rapid (close to real- time) determination of these destructive earthquakes. The rapid determination of the location of earthquakes of lesser magnitude was also considered. This recommendation subsequently gained the support of IASPEI and IUGG.
The centre started its operations at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Strasbourg (IPGS) on 1 January 1976 and formally received it statutes in 1983. The EMSC is an international, non-governmental, and non-profit association. The activity of the EMSC members is devoted to the promotion of seismological research. In this framework, EMSC runs an Earthquake Alert System for potentially damaging earthquakes in the Euro-Med region which consists of the rapid determination of the epicentre and the dissemination of the seismic alert message within the hour following the occurrence of the earthquake
The EMSC undertook a major evolution in 1993. The statutes were modified consecutively to an Extraordinary Assembly, held in Rome on 13 December 1993. The EMSC seat was moved to the Laboratoire de Détection et de Géophysique (LDG) of the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA) in Bruyères-le-Châtel (Essonne, France).
In 1987, the EMSC was charged by the Council of Europe (CoE) to provide the latter with seismic warnings in the framework of the Open Partial Agreement (OPA) on the prevention of, protection against, and organisation of relief in major natural and technological disasters.