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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Peter Maurer, President of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
28 October 2013
Monsieur Maurer, cher ami,
C'est pour moi un grand plaisir, aujourd'hui, de visiter officiellement le Comité International de la Croix Rouge. Notamment, je voudrais personnellement féliciter le CICR pour son 150ème anniversaire. Le CICR fait un travail extraordinaire sur le terrain, il reste un partenaire incontournable, un partenaire essentiel pour la Commission Européenne, dans la réponse aux besoins des populations affectées par les crises humanitaires. Et nous faisons tous les efforts pour améliorer la coopération entre nos organisations, comme le Président Maurer l'a dit, les négociations de l'accord cadre du partenariat entre le CICR et la Direction générale pour l'aide humanitaire et la protection civile, ECHO, sont en cours. J'espère que nous y aboutirons prochainement. Ça sera encore une manifestation d'excellente coopération qui a toujours existé entre le CICR et la Commission Européenne, maintenant renforcée, adaptée aux défis actuels.
En fait, comme on disait tout à l'heure, le CICR bénéficie d'une contribution de l'Union Européenne, ça veut dire de la Commission et de ses Etats-Membres, qui représente environ 60% de son budget, et c'est quelque chose qui n'est peut-être pas suffisamment connu par les citoyens européens. Qu'ils sachent que ces contributions sont très importantes pour l'aide humanitaire dans le monde. Et nous sommes fières, la Commission Européenne, et les Etats-Membres de l'Union Européenne, de contribuer à 60% pour le budget de ce grand projet qui est le projet humanitaire du CICR.
I was asked also to say some words in English for the international press so let me also say that I came here on an official visit also to congratulate the ICRC for its 150th anniversary.
And I want at this moment to pay tribute to every single humanitarian worker wearing a Red Cross badge. I believe those workers that are all over the world are true heroes! And I want to pay my tribute for their action in so many difficult spots in the world. In some of my visits abroad, I have been sometimes in touch with your people in very difficult zones of conflict and I really admire their courage and professionalism. So you may be proud of the contributions that the ICRC has been doing for the cause of humanitarian aid.
It was also a great pleasure to see President Maurer again today, and I thank him for receiving me. We had some time ago a very good meeting in Brussels and I am sure that our relations will be further expanded with this new framework agreement.
I want to reaffirm that the ICRC remains a true partner for the European Commission. We are proud in the European Union, Commission, with our Member States to be contributing to around 60% of the budget of the ICRC. It is a great demonstration of the project of peace that the European Union is.
Indeed, last year, when together with my colleagues from the European Union, I had the honour to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, I reminded our public in general that the first words of the Schuman declaration, the birth certificate of the European Union, are: "La paix mondiale", world peace. European Union is a project for peace and that's why we are proud to contribute to all organisations like the ICRC that contributes so much for this cause of peace, namely in the humanitarian field.
Today, we have in particular discussed the deteriorating situation in Syria.
The pain and suffering of the Syrian people is beyond what we can tolerate. It is a stain on the world's conscience. 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, nearly half of these are children or very young people. This is unbearable.
The European Union and its Member States have committed nearly 2 billion euros to help the people in and around Syria. I myself had the occasion some time ago to go visit Za'atri camp in the north of Jordan and to see how important it is, the help we can bring from outside to refugees in and outside Syria.
Our response, the European response, to the Syrian crisis is a comprehensive one. Of course, our focus is first and foremost humanitarian, but the Commission also makes use of its neighbourhood and stability instruments to cushion the political and economic consequences of the crisis on neighbouring countries.
Let's be clear: Humanitarian crises have no borders. That's why we need to pay special attention to preventing the spread of conflict and reduce tensions between host communities and refugees. That's also a reason why we need a political solution for the crisis, but while the conflict is there, you may be assured, President Maurer, we have been insisting with different partners, different parties in the conflict of the need to respect humanitarian law, the rights of access, all the conditions that should in fact be imperative in a civilised world. Unfortunately they are not always respected.
Let me also say that I strongly condemn the kidnapping of six ICRC staff and one Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers. Attacks against civilians, including humanitarian workers, are unacceptable.
Another issue that we have spoken about in this meeting is the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic. A conflict that sometimes is being forgotten but remains in fact a matter of concern for the ICRC.
So that's what I came here to do, to visit in person. I have for a long time been aware and cooperating with ICRC with several of your predecessors. I see that you keep the spirit, but of course it was the first time I had the occasion to visit the headquarters of the ICRC and with this simple gesture to pay tribute to the great humanitarian work that you are making for the good causes in the world.