Summary: January 7, 2005: Speech by Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner in charge of Environment, on 'The Civil Protection Intervention in South Asia', at the General Affairs & External Relations Council (Brussels)
We have a simple but effective system already in place, which prepares and mobilises the combined assets of the EU's civil protection forces to provide vital assistance at very short notice. That it can work and work well was demonstrated in the complex and difficult conditions of the South Asia earthquake and tsunami.
Within hours of the catastrophe, the Commission alerted the national civil protection authorities and asked for a response to the Sri Lankan Government's appeal for international assistance. By Monday 27th December, evaluation teams were in place in Sri Lanka and Thailand, working closely with the UN Agencies and advising us on the real needs. Very soon, medical teams, medicine, temporary shelters and water supply equipment were arriving in the afflicted region.
We have in the meantime installed experts in the Maldives and the devastated region of Sumatra. More help is on its way.
The civil protection phase is now coming to an end, as the immediate needs of rescue and medical attention are replaced by longer term humanitarian aid. But we can be quietly pleased with the way that we all worked together, despite the obstacles and difficulties.
For the future we should build on the good basis that we have established together. The Commission and Member States should look together at how to improve the effectiveness of the system. In recent months we have been working on scenarios to help us identify what resources Member States can make available in the event of a crisis in another country - we need to take this work forward quickly and to have the full participation of all Member States. In our discussions on the future financial perspectives we will also need to provide for funding for training, improved inter-operability and transport of emergency teams and equipment - the Commission will make the necessary proposals. By strengthening the Civil Protection Mechanism we can make sure that the EU has available an effective means of responding to future disasters, whether they are natural or manmade, thereby expressing our solidarity with those who are suffering, both inside the EU and in the wider world.