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Wednesday, 12 January 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

EU aid for tsunami victims in Asia (continuation)

  Mitchell (PPE-DE). Mr President, the world was shocked by the massive undersea earthquake, which took place on 26 December 2004. I believe that the inability of the European Union to react to the tragedy with the same single-mindedness as the United States, which sent its Secretary of State, is a clear indication of the urgent need for an EU foreign minister. I do not share the view of some colleagues. The EU's delay in responding at an appropriate level was deeply shocking and is unacceptable; senior EU leaders were not visible. However, I welcome the response, as now set out by the Commission President.

The current figure for loss of life is over 150 000, and it is feared that the effects of the tsunami, through diseases like cholera and malaria, will claim more victims. However, we must not take for granted the great outpouring of support from the public, who were way ahead of the politicians. We must now prepare for the time when donations turn from a flood to a trickle, once the glare of the media is turned away from Asia.

I would like to make two suggestions. One is that we should somehow try to legislate, or to get Member States to legislate, for the 0.7% of GNP contribution, as required by our commitment to the United Nations. I do not think it satisfactory, even in the motion recently adopted by this House, to express the hope that this will happen by 2015. What happened in South-East Asia indicates how urgent this is, and the Commission should now be trying to work for some sort of a treaty base to compel Member States to meet this commitment of 0.7%.

Secondly, implementing a coordinated and sustained effort by donor governments gives rise for concern. Some time ago, a EUR 2.5 billion commitment to Honduras for reconstruction after Hurricane Mitch was barely delivered on to the extent of one-third of that commitment: this is totally unacceptable. This House is not going to accept that once the glare of publicity leaves South-East Asia, the commitments we make now will not be met.

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