Haiti: The EU pours in more than 420 million euros of aid

The European Union today promised more than 420 million euros in aid to Haiti, of which 229 million will consist of humanitarian aid and immediate restoration after the earthquake, and showed a "positive" attitude to the dispatch of Gendarmerie and Police forces at the request of the UNO to ensure safety during distribution of aid to the population.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security, Catherine Ashton, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos - whose country occupies the EU Presidency for this six month period - and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Karel De Gucht, spoke to the press about the extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, convened to discuss the Caribbean country devastated by the earthquake in which thousands have died.

Urgent humanitarian aid will total 122 million euros, with a further 107 million for immediate restoration. Members of the press were told that a further 200 million will be set aside for medium- and long-term rebuilding.

Although a "formal" request has not yet been received from the United Nations, the question of deploying up to 150 members of the European Gendarmerie Force to strengthen security during the distribution of aid was discussed.

According to Moratinos, the attitude of the Member States comprising the European Gendarmerie Force to this request was "positive, in principle", adding that the aim is to "act quickly", because "it is urgent" to enable aid to reach the population "in complete safety".

The request from the UNO will be discussed this afternoon in a special meeting of the EU Political and Security Committee.

Both Moratinos and High Representative Ashton emphasised the importance of coordinating European and international actions to help Haiti.

Next Wednesday, Ashton will hold a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UNO Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid will visit Haiti on the same day to assess needs.

Meanwhile, the first Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, today attended a meeting in Santo Domingo on the reconstruction of Haiti, before travelling to Brazil.

The European Ministers praised the role played by the Dominican Republic during the crisis and confirmed the EU's willingness to help the country.

As expected, the Ministers agreed to propose that an international conference be held on long-term rebuilding plans for Haiti.

The EU response to the tragedy in Haiti will be discussed again at ministerial level next Monday. The same issue will also be on the agenda of the European Council which will bring together EU Heads of State or Government in Brussels on 11 February.