Sommaire: International Conference on Lebanon - Speech by EU Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner (26 July 2006: Rome)
Speech by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, at the International Conference on Lebanon, Rome
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, may I thank the government of Italy for organising this very timely conference.
May I express my deep sympathy for the loss of life of UN peacekeepers.
I would like to comment on three issues.
The first is the humanitarian crisis, which is our most immediate concern. We are all deeply affected by the recent events. The killing of innocent civilians must stop; and it must stop now. We need to alleviate the suffering of people throughout the region - in Lebanon and Israel, as well as in Gaza and the West Bank.
The European Commission has already provided €20 million for humanitarian assistance to civilians in Lebanon. After discussing this with my colleague Louis Michel, responsible for humanitarian aid, I am pleased to be able to announce that the Commission intends to mobilise in the coming weeks a further €30 million in accordance with the necessary procedures, which means with the Council and the European Parliament.
This will bring our total humanitarian package to €50 million.
But financial resources are not enough. Access is essential. Especially for the people most affected - those displaced or stranded in the South.
The key elements are: (i) safe entry into and exit from Lebanon by land, sea and air; and (ii) the opening of humanitarian safe corridors within the country to ensure the distribution of assistance. Besides water, food, medicine and shelter, fuel supplies must also be ensured to allow health facilities and water pumps to run.
Ensuring access requires our full engagement.
The second issue is evacuation. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cyprus for the role they are playing. Apart from a few pockets in the South, EU citizens have largely been able to leave the region. The problem is now for non-EU citizens, many of them from poor countries. I am pleased to say that I have decided to meet in full the appeal launched by the International Organisation for Migration. The European Commission is making available today €11 million from our Rapid Reaction Mechanism for this purpose.
The third point is the political dimension. Our conference today must set out the steps we need to take together to put an end to this crisis.
The framework for a durable solution has been set out by Secretary General Kofi Annan.