Urged by MEPs to make the external aid action of the EU more visible, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner conceded that this was her “greatest challenge” and outlined her ideas on how to “show the flag” more in future.
Speaking in the Foreign Affairs Committee today (16 July), Ferrero-Waldner explained that the problem of the visibility of EU action differs widely from case to case. Indeed, “showing the flag” is sometimes impossible.
Referring to Iraq, she said, “If we put a sign on a school, it will be bombed very quickly,” before stressing that “nobody has visibility in Iraq”. But she admitted that on a number of occasions, the Union was not prepared or equipped enough compared to other international players.
Ferrero-Waldner cited the international community’s humanitarian action in Aceh following the earthquake and tsunami in December 2006 as an example. Although she and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel travelled in the same helicopter as US State Secretary Colin Powell, only Powell received global coverage, she said. She explained that this was because he had a TV cameraman with him, something from which the EU envoys usually do not benefit.
“Everybody saw him, nobody saw us,” the commissioner said bitterly.
Ferrero-Waldner added that the best way to improve the visibility of EU engagement is through a “joint TV channel we pay for,” which she compared to CNN. She did not say whether Euronews was that channel, but expressed her satisfaction with the launch of the Arabic language service of Euronews. Services in Persian and Farsi are also under preparation, she added.