Sunday

21st Jul 2019

EU builds situation room for Arab League in Cairo

  • Arab League meeting room in Cairo. 'In Egypt, the crisis is happening in Tahrir Square. You can watch it from the window' (Photo: Bahrain ministry of foreign affairs)

Catherine Ashton's foreign service has built a situation room for the Arab League in Cairo to help handle future crises.

Agostino Miozzo, Ashton's top official on civilian crisis response, told EUobserver on Monday (25 June) the "red telephone" project is creating new "trust."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The flow of secure, reliable information in real time is essential for a civilian protector ... This will create trust with important partners in a conflict-prone part of the world," he said.

"If there is a terrorist attack, for instance, we need to know who to talk to. We have had huge difficulties in the past to find out exactly what is happening with European citizens on the ground ... We need reliable people on the other side of the line."

EU officials began installing €1.9-million-worth of computers, TV screens and satellite communications last November in a room one floor above Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby's office in the Egyptian capital.

The material includes Tarika - open source intelligence monitoring and scenario-planning software developed for the European Commission before Ashton's European External Action Service (EEAS) came along.

The Arab League room was switched on in spring and is currently manned 16 or 18 hours out of 24. It will be inaugurated by Ashton and Elaraby once the dust settles after Egyptian elections.

The EU expects the league in future to buy satellite imagery on the open market.

It also expects Arab countries' foreign ministries and EU countries' foreign ministries to link up to the new facility to create a "pan-Arab" information centre.

The man in charge of the situation room, a senior Egyptian diplomat, and eight of his staff, are in Brussels for three days this week to see how the EEAS crisis centre works and to get to know EU diplomats.

Miozzo said the Arab staff are mostly young university graduates with IT experience who speak Arabic, English and French. Some of them are former journalists.

Another EU official noted: "In Egypt, the crisis is happening in Tahrir Square. You can watch it from the window [of the Arab League building]. Some of the people operating the computers have scars on their hands from when they took part in protests."

Miozzo added: "With this instrument, they [Ashton and Elaraby] will be able to talk immediately, to have a video conference with each other ... They may need to have a video conference linking other people, linking [the UN envoy on Syria] Kofi Annan for example, linking some [EU] member states, or the US, or Russia. At any given moment we might need to link to anybody, to Israel for example. Why not?"

He said it took long negotiations to overcome the Arab League's initial "scepticism" about Western "intrusion."

But the project has attracted interest from other parties.

The EEAS is developing a similar system for the African Union headquarters in Addis Abbaba. It is also in talks to build a crisis room tailored to natural disasters for the league of Asian countries, Asean, in Jakarta.

"In the medium to long term, we might also do something with Central and Latin American countries," Miozzo said.

Recalling his time as head of Italy's civilian protection centre during the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, he noted: "There was a black hole for days on end. Nobody knew anything about how many casualties there were, how many Italians were affected, and [EU] embassies were in a total panic. I was there one day after [the tsunami struck] in Sri Lanka and it was a disaster."

Opinion

Mr Morsi goes to Brussels

The visit to Brussels by Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi is an opportunity for Europe to create better ties given its checkered past with the former regime and lacklustre engagement since its fall, writes Nick Witney.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us