"Given the scope of the catastrophe, the situation is satisfactory (...). All those that need to receive care have received it so far", said Commissioner De Gucht. An urgent problem to come in the rainy season will be to shelter about two million people who now live on the streets and in informal camps that have been precariously built.
Development Committee Chair Eva Joly (Greens/EFA, FR), welcomed the EU’s rapid response, but noted that "the deployment of this aid has been slowed down by problems linked to logistics co-ordination and the lack of security on the ground."
Reconstruction of the Haitian state
Even before the earthquake, Haiti was a failed state, said Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D, ES). "We need to construct and not reconstruct Haiti (...). The EU should have a clear role in equipping the new Haitian state with political structures”, he added. Mr De Gucht admitted that "institution-building is easier on paper than in practice", noting that “if there is no local support, it is very difficult to have institution-building”.
A priority for the EU is the urgent need to put in place the Haitian government "so they can make decisions and the Haitian people have their voice heard in the recovery operations and particularly in the reconstruction phase", he added.
EU visibility on the ground
Replying to Gay Mitchell (EPP, IE), on the question of more EU visibility on the ground, Mr De Gucht emphasised that the Commission as such is not present on the ground as the humanitarian aid is directed through NGOs and UN organisations. "You can't really see they are European, but they are there on the ground and their help is much appreciated - we should not be ashamed of our efforts! It's true that there is a visibility problem but then, what is the most important thing? Is it visibility or is it actually getting the work done?"
"The question of visibility is in the end is also a question of political will" of the Member States" which act in Haiti under the national flag, added the Commissioner.
EU rapid reaction capacity
Asked by several MEPS about the appropriateness of establishing an EU operational force which could be deployed in such cases, the Commissioner said that the explicit solidarity clause in the Treaty of Lisbon “would need to be implemented in concrete terms”, adding that now the "climate is propitious" for the Commission to present a proposal for a possible rapid reaction mechanism. In this context, he also mentioned the creation of a European Volunteers Corps.
As to debt relief for Haiti, Charles Goerens (ALDE, LU), expressed a preference for "gifts rather than lending." The Commissioner reassured MEPs that all the EU money made available would be grants, because at this stage, loans would not make any sense.
Gay Mitchell (EPP, IE), insisted that the cancellation of debt should be among the priorities of the forthcomingh conference in Montreal on the long-term reconstruction of Haiti.
In the chair: Eva Joly (Greens/EFA, FR)