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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at opening of the European Emergency Response Centre

Opening of the European Emergency Response Centre/Brussels

15 May 2013

Distinguished guests,

Colleagues from the Commission and the External Action Service,

Representatives of different governments, the European Union and the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

It is indeed a pleasure to be here with you to open the European Emergency Response Centre.

As you know, in Europe, on average every year 10 000 people are tragically killed and 15 billion Euro of damage caused by natural and man-made disasters. We need to do all that we can, at every level, to reduce this terrible toll and better protect Europe's citizens.

The new Emergency Response Centre will play a central role in this regard. Its core function is to bring together the collective knowledge and capacity of our Member States. The Centre will also support the Commission's humanitarian interventions and will be able to provide specialist services across the Commission during emergency situations.

It will thus help to ensure a better coordinated European response to disasters, avoiding potential duplication and inefficiency. This is a prime example of how "more Europe" brings added, practical and tangible value to our citizens, and help us to tackle the challenges we face together.

All of this will enable us to build on our experience of European civil protection that has been developed over the past decade: from dealing with the tragic "red sludge" disaster in Hungary to mitigating the impact of the terrible explosion at the “Evangelos Florakis” naval base in Cyprus. And it will enable us to more effectively demonstrate European solidarity at its most fundamental level.

Of course, this solidarity also extends to third countries whenever a major disaster strikes.

The Commission already coordinated the European assistance in international crisis from the 2004 tsunami in Asia (I remember well because it was at the beginning of my first mandate in the Commission and we were there. I cannot forget the words of appreciation and gratitude that were expressed to us by the President of Indonesia and the people of Indonesia) to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the Deep-water Horizon oil spill in the United States.

This new centre will allow us to go a step further. It will enable us to put together a European response that is even faster and even more effective, in accordance with the Commission's legislative proposal on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism". I would like to call upon both the EP and the Council to rapidly finalise the negotiations on this legislation so as to ensure full continuity in the financial and legal framework for European civil protection.

These efforts to improve coordination and cooperation are also being promoted through the Civil Protection forum which is being held today and tomorrow. I would like to wish all participants a very successful event.

I would also like to pay a special tribute and to give a special little thanks to Kristalina Georgieva (you know her enthusiasm well), to her and to her team, and to all those that participated in this very important project. I would also like to thank the colleagues in the Commission - Maroš Šefčovič and his services. To all of you that made this possible, my very sincere congratulations and my warmest thanks.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In an ideal world, in which tragic disaster doesn't strike, this centre would not be needed. However, in the real world I am proud that together we have established a facility which will help give our citizens the European civil protection they expect and deserve.

I thank you for your attention.

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