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Brussels, 16 May 2008

Louis Michel calls on Myanmar authorities to open-up humanitarian gateway

 European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, has made a strong appeal to the Myanmar authorities to immediately allow more international humanitarian aid workers access to the country.

Speaking at a press conference at Bangkok airport, after a two day visit to Myanmar, Commissioner Michel said, "I engaged in face to face negotiations with the Myanmar authorities arguing for concrete actions now. I'm pleased to see that there are some first positive signs such as the extention of visas for Commission staff. I believe they now understand a little better our humanitarian wish to simply help the victims of this catastrophe. I am frustrated, like so many, that more cannot be done at this stage but we must keep up the pressure for this gradual opening-up the humanitarian space in the coming days."

Commissioner Michel underlined that the international community had a duty to try all means to persuade the Myanmar authorities of the need to allow humanitarian organisations greater access. He stated, "Our objective is simply to try to help the victims - the families, the mothers and children so badly affected. The Myanmar authorities have an obligation to help their own people by allowing the international community to bring in their live-saving expertise. No country can cope with such devestation on their own."

The European Commission has boosted its humanitarian funding to €17 million to help victims of Cyclone Nargis. In addition to the €2 million in fast track assistance announced last week, it has released €5 million from its food aid budget to support the work of the World Food Programme in Myanmar and has launched a €10 million emergency decision for other relief activities by its partners covering sectors such as shelter, water/sanitation and health.

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