EU reaffirms pledge for aid to SE Asia
by Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Jan 7 (CNA) -- European Union ministers reaffirmed here today their pledge for 1,5 billion euro in aid for the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and asked the Commission to set up a rapid deployment special team to act when natural disasters occur.
Cyprus was represented at the Brussels meeting by Foreign Minister George Iacovou. EU foreign, development and health ministers reiterated their commitment to help in two phases, the first concerns humanitarian assistance and the second reconstruction.
In his intervention, Iacovou informed EU ministers about Cyprus' response to the earthquake that hit the southeast Asian region, saying that Cypriot medical staff went to Sri Lanka to help, the public has so far collected one million dollars and the government offered 370.000 dollars.
EU ministers decided to let the UN lead humanitarian efforts in aid of the tsunami victims and will help in any way it can. When it comes to reconstruction, the EU said it would have a leading role.
The EU has donated 450 million euro from its budget in addition to donations from member states, bringing up the total to 1,5 billion euro.
The EU will recommend to the Paris Club to write off foreign debt of countries hit by the earthquake.
The European Investment Bank will give out loans worth one billion euro with favourable terms.
Ministers discussed also long term initiatives for the prevention of natural disasters such as the tsunami.
Foreign Ministers will meet again on 31 January and Finance Ministers on 18 January.