EU warns against tsunami aid ‘beauty contest’


Prior to an extraordinary council on the tsunami
disaster, Development Aid Commissioner Louis Michel has warned
against too much focus on money instead of longer term

EU foreign affairs and development ministers will meet for an
extraordinary council on 7 January to co-ordinate efforts in
the wake of the tsunami disaster in Asia. With a record
1.5bn euros having been pledged by the Commission and
EU member states, lack of funds is not the immediate problem.
However the follow-up and co-ordination on the ground is
set to be a major challenge. 

This prompted a warning from Louis Michel,
the commissioner for development, who was travelling in the
affected region: “We must be very careful not to enter
a beauty contest where we compete on who has the
highest number. I am interested by promises that lead to actual
spending,” said Michel, while insisting that he was not
challenging the sincerity of pledges. 

The concerns were echoed in a statement by the Australian branch
of Oxfam, the aid NGO that warned against false promises
and “not to repeat the mistakes of the past and instead to
commit to a comprehensive package of aid, debt relief and trade
concessions for the countries affected by the tsunami

The European Commission has pledged a total aid
package of 450 million euros to address both immediate needs and
the longer term reconstruction of infrastructure in the Asian
costal communities affected. Individual EU countries such as
Germany and the UK have pledged approximately 500m
euros and 73m euros respectively.  

Speaking at the special ASEAN donor conference
in Jakarta on 6 January 2004, EU Commission President
Barroso pointed to the need for a “seamless transition” from
the current humanitarian support to the second longer term phase of
rehabilitation and reconstruction. “While final reconstruction
costs will only be known when the needs assessments currently
underway are finalised in March, it is clear that the bill will be
huge and the task will span several years,” said Barroso.

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