EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso i has defended his executive's handling of the EU i response to the floods in Pakistan, following suggestions from Paris that Brussels could "do more."
Mr Barroso noted in a letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy i on Monday (16 August) that the EU had been the "first to react" to the crisis. The tit-for-tat correspondence follows a letter from the French leader on Sunday using the opportunity to call for the creation of an EU rapid reaction force that could be immediately deployed in such emergencies in the future.
"I want to emphasise that the Commission was the first to react (July 30), and to increase the funds allocated to Pakistan," read the correspondence, which was released to the press.
"Of the more than €40 million that was raised, my staff have worked hard to ensure that the money can be spent on the field as soon as possible," Mr Barroso continued. "Some already substantial funds is being paid to non-governmental organisations have been the quickest to react."
"Once again, the services of the Directorate General of ECHO are now demonstrating their professionalism and efficiency in responding to major humanitarian crises," he said, referring to the EU's humanitarian aid department.
The commission leader did agree with Mr Sarkozy that more should be done, but he placed the ball firmly in the court of the EU nations themselves, rather than the Brussels executive and said he was developing a plan to encourage them to do just that: "Nevertheless, the EU can and must do more. For this, we must mobilise member states. With my services, I devised a plan of action that I wish to share with you."
He said that humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva i is to "very soon" propose new policies for the EU's response to such emergencies, but skirted mention of a new dedicated European force as the solution.
Mr Barroso also said that Ms Georgieva could soon travel to Pakistan to "ensure the visibility of European aid and help us determine the priorities for the next few weeks."
At least 2,000 people have been killed as a result of the recent flooding in Pakistan that have affected a fifth of the country. Some 722,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed and the UN estimates that some 20 million people are suffering as a result.