Thursday

28th Jul 2016

EU to send gendarmerie force to Haiti

  • A UN peacekeeper guards a bank queue in earthquake-struck Haiti (Photo: un.org)

EU foreign ministers have opted to send 300 or so military police to support the aid effort in Haiti, on top of a massive US security force.

France and Italy pledged to send between 120 and 140 gendarmes each at the ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday (25 January). The Netherlands is to send 60. Portugal and Spain are also expected to contribute.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The EU mission is getting ready to go in the next few days and will fall under UN command when it arrives in the earthquake zone.

The modest size of the EU-hatted deployment stands in contrast to US plans to have 20,000 military personnel on the ground by the end of the week.

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said UN leaders had asked her for specialists to help with specific policing problems rather than to provide general security in the collapsed state.

"The UN is looking for people with expertise to do specific things," she said. "We need to help support the [Haiti] administration get back to life."

Following his visit to the Caribbean island over the weekend, EU development commissioner Karel De Gucht said the country has been "decapitated."

"The Haitian state has practically disappeared. We met the president, the prime minister and senior officials, but we were meeting them in a disused police station. That's all that the government consists of," he said.

The commissioner paid tribute to nurses and doctors working "around the clock" in "a sort of war zone" to help the 250,000 people injured in the disaster on top of the 200,000 or more dead.

The EU foreign ministers on Monday also set up a "co-ordination cell" in Brussels to help ensure that the mixed bag of bilateral EU aid to Haiti is delivered as efficiently as possible.

Twenty four EU countries as well as the European Commission have put forward over €450 million in cash, 12 search and rescue teams, 130 civil protection experts, two field hospitals, 38 medical teams, six water sanitation units and an aircraft carrier with two hospitals on board.

Going into the meeting on Monday, French EU affairs minister Pierre Lellouche repeated French concerns that the EU is playing second fiddle to the US in terms of its international profile on the Haiti crisis: "We're going to try to do better in terms of the union's visibility," he said.

Ms Ashton batted aside press questions about the importance of the EU's image, however.

"There's been a recognition from the people of Haiti, the US, the UN and others of the extremely important role the EU has played. On the main issue, we should ask, have we tried to save lives, to support the people of Haiti? Yes we have," she said.

The remarks follow harsh criticism of international posturing over the crisis by an Italian government envoy to the region, Guido Bertolaso.

"When there is an emergency it triggers a vanity parade. Lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, showing solidarity," Mr Bertolaso said from Haiti at the weekend.

The original article said Portugal would send 50 gendarmes and Spain 40. It later emerged the countries have not yet made clear their pledges.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue Platform
  2. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  3. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  4. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  5. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  6. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  7. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  8. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  10. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  11. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  12. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company