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MEP Takes Lead on Tsunami Reconstruction Effort

Nirj Deva, Coordinator of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee and Conservative Member for South East England was called to open a major debate on the Tsunami disaster in the European Parliament today (12 Jan).


Speaking to a packed House, the MEP, who has recently been appointed Rapporteur for the European Union’s International Development Budget, said:

“I have just returned from Sri Lanka, where I have witnessed first-hand many of the heart-breaking sights that have been seen on television sets across the world.

“It is crucial that, instead of making empty promises, the international community delivers the aid that it has promised.

“The European Union member states have already pledged €1.5 billion so far and it is crucial that this show of immense generosity is channelled into genuine reconstruction projects rather than allow it to be wasted or creamed off by greedy or incompetent Government officials.

“As soon as I saw the Tsunami heading towards my hotel on Boxing Day, it struck me that the loss of life would be negligible if only one authenticated phone call to CNN or any other international broadcast network had been made. It is now my top priority to ensure that an early warning system is not just talked about, but implemented as soon as possible

Highlighting the possibility of problems closer to home, the MEP asked the EU Commission to urgently investigate the repercussions if volcanic activity in the Canary Islands were to cause a Tsunami, with the potential to wreak havoc along the coast-lines of European countries. He wanted to know what warning system existed.

He concluded by saying "We must remember that it is trade and investment, not aid, which will sustain the people in the long-term. The devastation is limited to the coastal areas and the countries of South Asia are still very much open for business. We must encourage European companies to be more, not less, active in those countries and we must make sure that local businesses are strengthened by our aid programmes, rather than disadvantaged by unfair trade barriers.

“Let us all work together, not only to repair the destruction, but also to give the victims a "hand-up" and not merely a "hand out"”.

The full text of Mr Deva’s speech to the European Parliament is as follows:

Mr. President,

I have just returned from Sri Lanka, where I have witnessed many of the dreadful sights we have all seen on television. As a Sri-Lankan born member of this Parliament I wish to express my gratitude to all those who have responded so generously to appeals for help, particularly the help given by the peoples of Europe, my country Britain in particular and my constituents of the South East of England.

May I also make the following points:

The EU and its Member States have together pledged almost €1.5 billion so far, and the amount continue to rise; the Commission with Parliaments Authority has already committed €23m and had promised founds of €350m, though €150m of this is new money but would be taken from existing long-term development projects in Asia. This must be reviewed.

I also welcome the proposal for a 1 billion lending facility from the EIB.

We must deliver the aids which have promised. In the past, the international community has not. A rapid reaction civilian corps for delivery as proposed by Com Ferrero Waldner is welcomed. Our Aid must be visible. I was embarrassed in Sri Lankan because EU aid has been delivered quickly but invisibly though. Commissioner Michel has been extremely visible and hands on. The UN should only act as coordinators and not pretend to be the donors. Our taxpayers demand this. Ownership matters.

We must also ensure that the Aid is not stolen. Yes, stolen because when there are no systems in the recipient countries it will be stolen unless we get the delivery mechanism to be totally transparent and accountable.

There is a currently an urgent need for suitable boats to be donated to devastated fishing communities and we can do this by not smashing our European boats under the CFP.

Early warning procedures are also needed before the next disaster happens. An authenticated phone call to CNN and the other broadcast networks could have saved thousands of lives in Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Thailand.

This applies not just to Asia. How would our people in Europe be warned if volcanic activity in the Canary Islands caused a Tsunami? Will the Commission prepare an urgent report?

In Sri Lanka I hope that reconstruction will also mean reconciliation, and that aid will be consistent with the Oslo December 2002 talks and Tokyo Donor Conference expectations. We should expect no less for Indonesia, with we should ACH separatist.

We must remember that it is trade and investment, not aid, which will sustain the people in the long-term. The devastation is limited to the coastal areas, the countries of South Asia are still open for business, and we must encourage European companies to be more, not less, active in those countries.

We must make sure that local businesses are strengthened by our aid programme, and not disadvantaged by imports tied to aid. They need access to investment capital on sensible terms which the EIB can give the LIBOR minus rates, and we must remove the import duties which discriminate against their products, particularly the Rules of Origin and the Double Transformation Mechanism

Mr. President, let us all therefore work together, not only to repair the destruction, but also to give the victims a "hand-up" and not merely a "hand out".


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