Saturday

27th Aug 2016

Russian fires, Pakistan floods pose questions for EU crisis management

  • Moscow - the Russian capital is shrouded in smog (Photo: RiMarkin)

The French junior minister for EU affairs, Pierre Lellouche, has renewed calls for a European disaster reaction force in the context of Russia's wildfires.

In an interview on Tuesday (10 August) in French daily Le Figaro, Mr Lellouche said: "At the European level, it would ... be good to have real means of mutual aid in case of emergency."

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.

"Following the earthquake in Haiti, I emphasised to our European partners the need to pool our means to create a European emergency force. It still does not exist."

He noted that the current EU crisis response tool, the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection, has not been triggered so far amid political pressure in Russia to show that it can handle the situation itself.

"Across the EU, the mechanism of civil emergency has not been activated for the moment because the Russians have not asked," Mr Lellouche said.

"I appreciate the criticism of the Russian and international press about the weaknesses attributed to Russian authorities faced with this catastrophe. The French government's role is not to judge the actions of Moscow. Our role is to assist."

The Mechanism for Civil Protection helps EU countries to co-ordinate bilateral relief efforts through a special office, the Monitoring and Information Centre, in the European Commission's aid directorate.

Individual EU states, such as Bulgaria, France and Italy, have already sent planes, smoke masks and experts to Russia.

But EU-level intervention has so far been limited to informal consultations between aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva and Russian counterparts.

Ms Georgieva, a former Bulgarian official, on Monday told Bulgarian news agency Novinite that she has spoken to Russia's emergencies minister Sergey Shoygu and that she was present during a phone call from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Bulgarian leader Boyko Borisov in which Mr Putin thanked the country for sending firefighters.

"We are viewing the problem in Russia as something very grave, for as we all can see it affects the life and health of many people," she said. "I've lived in Moscow and I know what it means for this town to be surrounded by wildfires."

The Russian fires have caused volatility in grain markets and food prices, affecting the EU, but government experts in Belgium and France say there is no serious threat of nuclear contamination from the old Chernobyl site being stirred up into the air.

A second Haiti?

The French junior minister's reference to Haiti points back to his criticism of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton earlier this year, in which Mr Lellouche said Ms Ashton missed an opportunity to increase EU visibility on the world stage.

In terms of global disaster response, the EU has so far pledged a modest €30 million to help victims of the Pakistan floods.

But with many top EU officials on holiday during Europe's August vacation season and with the Pakistan situation worsening day-by-day, the bloc's crisis reaction capabilities risk looking weak once again.

"The number of people affected by Pakistan's floods is now estimated to be 13.8 million," the UN said in a statement on Monday. "This is a higher figure than those who were affected by the 2005 South Asia tsunami (5 million), the 2005 South Asia earthquake (3 million), or the 2010 Haiti earthquake (3 million)."

Slovakia's Fico goes to Russia

The Slovak prime minister, whose country currently chairs the EU council, will meet the Russian leader ahead of upcoming EU talks on Russia policy.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary plans to reinforce border fence against migrants
  2. France's highest court suspends burkini ban
  3. Greeks paid €1bn more in taxes in June
  4. Greek minister denounces EU letter on former statistics chief
  5. Turks seeking asylum in Greece may cause diplomatic row
  6. Merkel becomes digital resident of Estonia
  7. Report: VW will compensate US dealers with €1bln
  8. EU mulls making Google pay news media for content

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBrussels - home of beer, fries, chocolate and Google’s Public Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  2. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students from 50 countries to China for Much-Needed ICT Training
  3. EFASpain is not a democratic state. EFA expresses its solidarity to Arnaldo Otegi and EH Bildu
  4. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  5. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  6. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  7. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Confirms the Application of Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  8. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  9. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  10. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER
  11. EURidNominate Your Favourite .eu or .ею Website for the .EU Web Awards 2016 Today!
  12. Dialogue PlatformAn Interview on Gulen Movement & Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey