Haiti offered millions in EU emergency assistance

18.01.10 @ 17:39

  1. By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS - Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere is to receive some €115 million in fresh European Union cash for humanitarian aid, it was announced on Monday (18 January).

  • The Haitian government estimates that up to 200,000 people may have been killed (Photo: redcross.org)

Europe will also be sending a contingent of European gendarmes to support the re-imposition of civil order.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country currently chairs the EU's six-month rotating presidency, announced the funds following an emergency meeting of development ministers in the wake of the disaster which has claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people.

Ms Ashton said that her office is co-ordinating the efforts on the ground by different EU member states to provide immediate medical, water sanitation, and logistical support while under the umbrella of the United Nations.

"We want to send out a signal voicing our solidarity and condolences to the Haitian people," Mr Moratinos told reporters.

"This is the first time the EU has had to respond to such a crisis under the Lisbon Treaty," he added, referring to the bloc's newly centralised foreign policy co-ordination as laid out in the Lisbon Treaty.

The funds come from both the European Commission and the member states themselves.

The European Commission announced €19 million in new funds to be dispersed immediately, and €8 million in redirected European Community Humanitarian aid Office (ECHO) funds, atop the already announced €3 million made available within 24 hours of the earthquake.

EU member states separately announced €96 million of their own funds for emergency relief. Most member states committed funds.

The commission also announced that €107 million would be offered for short to mid-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts beyond just immediate emergency needs and a further €200 million for long-term reconstruction to be alloted once the worst of the crisis has past.

The two figures however do not represent new money, but cash redirected from existing development funds "a lot of which was already programmed for Haiti," said John Clancy, the commission's development spokesman.

The total, including new and existing funds for Haiti will total €429 million.

Ms Ashton said that all of the cash will be in the form of grants rather than loans, with no economic or political strings attached. The International Monetary Fund last Thursday announced $100 million in emergency cash, but in the form of loans via the organisation's extended credit facility, which will have to be paid back and with conditions that will include hiking electricity prices, public sector wage freezes and keeping a lid on inflation.

EU gendarmes to be deployed

Separately, the UN has requested the EU to deploy a contingent of the European Gendarmerie Force to Port-au-Prince. France proposed on Monday that 1,000 such EU gendarmes be sent to Haiti. Mr Moratinos for his part said the force would number from 140-150 men and women. The precise number of police and form the mission will take is to be discussed by diplomats on Monday afternoon.

The EGF is an intramural collaboration of six EU member states to provide militarised police services overseas. Gendarmes, distinct from civilian police, are part of a country's armed forces and commonly used to re-establish law and order in conflict areas. The French gendarmerie is the organ charged with crowd and riot control.

Development commissioner Karel de Gucht is to travel to Haiti on Wednesday while Ms Ashton is to meet with US secretary of state Hilary Clinton the same day before heading to New York to consult with the UN.

An earlier version of this story reported that the UN had said Estonia had offered $1 million in emergency assistance to Haiti. The UN figure is incorrect. Estonia has offered $367,873, which makes the country the fourth largest EU contributor in terms of GDP, not the first.

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