EU pledges major aid package for Haiti

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EU pledges major aid package for Haiti

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Europe’s 27 development ministers have promised close to half a billion euros for Haiti’s earthquake relief fund.

It is the first major test for the EU’s new foreign policy supremo, Catherine Ashton, who has been criticised for her lack of experience.

They have earmarked 137-million euros in EU funds for immediate assistance, to avoid what they call ‘a second wave disaster.’ There is at least 200-million for longer-term re-building. And individual countries have also promised a total of 92 million.

The European Commission itself has increased its own contribution tenfold, from three-million euros to 30-million.

The Head of Italian Civil Protection Guido Bertolaso said: “Obviously in such a phase of reorganisation, the Commission under-estimated the reality there, despite the swiftness of Europe’s actions.”

The ministers also want an international conference on how to tackle rebuilding Haiti once the immediate emergency needs have been addressed.

Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation said: “For the moment, we don’t need competition, we need coordination, and joint efforts to see the needs of the Haitian people. In the longer term, I think it is good that we have some competition.”

To help protect the humanitarian aid, around 150 paramilitary police will be sent from the European Gendarme Force. It was set up in 2004, and consists of personnel from France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal.