(Sofia, November 1st 2010 at 11:00, Sheraton Hotel)
Keynote speech of The European Commissioner for International Cooperation,
Humanitarian Aid, and Crisis Response: Kristalina Georgieva
“New Strategies for Crisis Response in Europe:
How Higher Disaster Frequency and Intensity Change the Response of the EU”
1 November, 2010, Sheraton Hotel, Sofia
SUMMARY OF THE EVENT
On November 1, The European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid, and Crisis Response, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, gave a public lecture entitled: “New Strategies for Crisis Response in Europe: How Higher Disaster Frequency and Intensity Change the Response of the EU” in Sofia. The event was organised by the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria in cooperation with the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria. The lecture was attended by ambassadors, MPs, economists, experts, representatives from EU member states, and students.
According to Mrs. Georgieva, the EU’s response to crises can be slow. As major disasters can often overwhelm national capacities, a common response is essential, for both saving lives and limitting the damage. In her opinion, 90% of the EU citizens believe that better prepared responses and improved coordination need to be established. In response to disasters, Europe should shift from an “ad hoc response” to “pre-planned, predictable and immediate” measures. She presented the Commission’s proposals to bring together the wealth of expertise and resources, available at local, national and EU levels, into one strengthened EU disaster-response system. Forward planning of common action and coordination are essential to provide efficient crisis response.
Mechanisms which are to be used in the new strategic approach include the development of scenarios for the most likely disasters, as well as determining the existing capacity of the EU member states to deal with these scenarios. It is desirable for EU member states to voluntarily declare their preparedness and to offer their own disaster-response resources, so that they could be used by the EU in a crisis situation. The EU system should provide a better logistical network, aiming at providing a quick supply of aid. It is expected for EU countries to allocate equipment, such as water pumps for fighting floods, specialised planes and helicopters to fight fires, etc., which would be kept by EU forces, ready to be utilised in a state of emergency.
The commissioner suggested to upgrade the status of the existing EU crisis response centre, i.e. the Monitoring and Information Centre. Currently the centre is regarded as a passive coordinator. However, these upgrades would turn in into a more active and flexible European Emergency Response Centre. The intention has been to integrate humanitarian aid with the aid provided by the civil protection structures. Curently, these are two independent units. These upgrades would allow these institutions to work in coordination with each other, so that integrated teams are sent to places where disasters occur, such as the recent disasters in Pakistan, Haiti or Indonesia. These integrated teams would comprise both humanitarian workers and specialists from the EU members’ civil protection systems in order to ensure a better, more efficient and faster crisis response.
These reforms would allow the EU to adapt their response to the intensity of a given crisis through adequate coordination of information and means, as well as a standardisation of the European civil protection systems.
There are three main steps to be implemented:
– approval by EU (which has already been received);
– approval by member states;
– preparation of the legal framework to support the process and secure fast response.
In the above context, Commissioner Georgieva suggested that the Bulgarian Civil protection will be placed under the direct responsibility of the Councils of Ministers, thus guaranteeing a faster decision making process.
In 2010, the EU had a budget of 800 million for humanitarian aid and 25 million for civil protection. The optimal budget, according to Mrs. Georgieva, would be around 1 billion, which was actually surpasssed in 2010 due to increased crisis intensity. She stated that no increase was envisaged in 2011 to fund the coordination of national systems for civil protection.
During Commissioner Ceorgieva’s presentation, reference was made to Hungary’s industrial breakdown and the insurance of European producers against such risks. It was emphasised that the insurance should be adequate to cover the size and character of any potential threat. The Hungarian company, for example, responsible for pollution of large areas of the Danube river, was only insured 40 000 against potential pollution. It is important not only to synchronise national legislation of EU member states to ensure a unified cisis response, but to have a disciplined attitude towards existing legislations, strictly enforcing it, and continuously monitoring ecological parameters that could be threatened by European producers.
Commissioner Georgieva expressed her great satisfaction with the humanitarian aid supplied to Haiti. Europe provided 300 million worth of aid in water, food, tents, medical service, and other immediate needs. Well structured material aid, where no direct cash is involved, lessens the risk of speculation and fraud. According to Commissioner Georgieva, the main problem in Haiti is the reconstruction of the country. The major focus of crisis-support should therefore be assissting local people to find jobs and receive proper medical care and education, or simply humanitarian support.
“I believe, that the charity provided by the EU countries will be “contagious” for the rest of the world, too”, the president of the Atlantic Club, Mr. Solomon Passy, stated as a response to Mrs. Georgieva’s position.