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SPEECH/ 10/3

Catherine Ashton

High Representative / Vice President

Statement on the situation in Haiti

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

European Parliament

Strasbourg, 19 January 2010

I am glad to be able to update this House on the situation in Haiti following the terrible earthquake of 12 th January. The losses are devastating and the damage enormous.  Up to 3 million people have been affected by the tragedy, and the death toll continues to mount.  

This is a massive humanitarian and political disaster. Our immediate focus is on working with the UN and the Haitian leadership to ease the suffering of the Haitian people.  Our commitment to rebuilding Haiti is long term.

Many European citizens have also lost their lives, and around 1000 are still unaccounted for.

The EU has responded quickly, not seeking headlines, but with a total focus on getting help to the people in need. On advice from the UN I resisted the urge to travel to Haiti immediately – that would only have diverted attention and scarce resources away from the relief effort. I will, of course travel to Haiti as soon as this is appropriate. In the meantime we are working flat out on all tracks: humanitarian, political and security.

Over the past days, I have been in constant contact with Secretary of State Clinton, with the UN leadership, with EU Foreign Ministers and with Canada which is leading "Friends of Haiti" group. All this with a view to ensure an effective and coordinated international response.  

I will travel to the United States this week to follow up on this and other issues with the US administration, and with the UN Secretary General. 

I have agreed with Commissioner de Gucht that he will travel to Haiti this week to extend the EU's condolences and underline our commitment to the people of Haiti. He will also take the opportunity to review our aid efforts so far and discuss with the UN and our people on the ground the most pressing needs for the coming weeks and months.   

The UN has asked for urgent financial aid – USD 575 million – as well as logistical assistance to transport humanitarian aid. Yesterday, the UN Secretary-General asked for police and military reinforcements of the UN peace-keeping mission in Haiti as well. 

To help mobilise and coordinate the EU's response, I asked the Spanish EU Presidency to call an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council yesterday.  

For the first time since the Lisbon Treaty entered into effect, we are now pulling together the efforts of the Commission and the Council Secretariat, and the Member States, in a comprehensive approach, under my overall coordination.  This is ground-breaking.

We had a very productive Council meeting yesterday.  Everyone agreed on the need for a rapid response and close coordination with the UN.

In terms of financial assistance, the Council reached the following conclusions:

  • It welcomed the Commission's a preliminary commitment for immediate humanitarian assistance of € 30 million EUR, in addition to €92 million in preliminary commitments by Member States

  • It also welcomed the Commission's preliminary commitment of €100 million for early non-humanitarian assistance, for instance. rehabilitation and reconstruction.; and

  • It took note of the Commission's preliminary indication that up to €200 million would be available for the longer-term response.

  • It called for, in due course and after post emergency needs have been fully assessed, an international conference on Haiti.

In total, this is a massive response in a very short time.  Assistance will be targeted also to the Dominican Republic.  

Finding enough money is going to be less of a problem than getting it out to the people who need it. We must ensure that it is properly targeted towards sustainable political and physical reconstruction.  

Following the UN Secretary General's request for help to transport of humanitarian aid and for additional police units, the Council invited me to identify EU Member State contributions and make proposals for their mobilisation.    

I am working on this.  We convened a Political and Security Committee meeting immediately after the Council meeting to follow up.  Early indications of Member State contributions are already now available, including possible contributions through the European Gendarmerie Force.  Work will continue in the Council preparatory groups during the coming days with a view to a rapid, targeted response.

The Foreign Affairs Council will meet again next Monday. We will follow up on Haiti and consider further actions. 

This is a major test for EU foreign policy in the new world of the Lisbon Treaty. The people of Haiti – and our own publics – expect a swift, effective and co-ordinated response. That is exactly what we are delivering.

I look forward to working with this Parliament as well to and to hear your views

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