How the EU is helping earthquake victims
BPresident Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria expressed his sympathy. During a visit to the Red Cross in Geneva on Tuesday, he said that he was very touched. “You are not alone,” he said to the people in the accident area. “In this difficult hour we are with you, we wait and fear and above all hope together with you.” In Berlin, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) described the pictures from the earthquake region as shocking. “People searching for their loved ones in the rubble with their bare hands,” she said. “Our thoughts are with the relatives and everyone who is still worried about family, neighbors and friends.”
Baerbock also emphasized that Germany, together with its partners and the EU got help on the way. In Syria, too, “where people under the Assad regime can’t hope for any help,” Baerbock said the humanitarian partners provided as much support as possible. As an example, she cited that Malteser International, who were on site, received one million euros. Further funds will also be released, said the Foreign Minister.
They are also pushing for humanitarian access to Syria. There is currently only one open border crossing, but it was damaged in the earthquake, she said. “That’s why opening the border crossings is so important.” It is “the absolute imperative now that humanitarian aid gets to where it is needed”.
“We need an official request”
The Federal Foreign Office announced that a rescue team from the aid organization ISAR was on Tuesday in the Turkey landed and a team from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief was on the way. The federal police are also helping with paramedics, doctors and a dog unit. The European Union has sent more than 1,200 rescue workers and 80 search dogs to Turkey to rescue people from the rubble. As the EU Commission also announced, eleven of the 30 rescue teams from 21 member states had already arrived in the area of operations on Tuesday afternoon. A team of experts has also been dispatched to assist the Turkish authorities. This help is coordinated via the EU’s so-called civil protection mechanism, a platform through which inquiries are made to the states. The EU Commission then assumes 75 percent of the transport costs.
While Turkey activated this well-established mechanism on Monday afternoon, no request was received from the Syrian side in Brussels. For the time being, the EU was therefore only able to provide support through humanitarian partner organizations, which in turn help to rescue people who have been buried. “We need an official request,” said a spokesman for the EU Commission with a view to Syria. “Without the approval of the authorities, it is not possible for the teams to work safely and efficiently.” The United Nations could also make such a request, but this has not happened so far. It is now being examined whether humanitarian aid for other organizations in Syria can be increased. Last year, 150 million euros were spent on this.
Sweden, which was recently sharply criticized by the Turkish government, is also helping in times of need. On Tuesday, the government decided on a second aid package of 30 million crowns (around 3.2 million euros), the day before it had already given seven million crowns to Turkey and Syria. The country also provides tents, generators and food. Sweden’s Minister for International Development and Foreign Trade, Johan Forssell, said they were prepared to provide further support in the short term. His thoughts are with the victims and their families, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on Twitter. He sent his deepest condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As a “partner of Turkey”, Sweden is ready to provide assistance.
Swedish government officials did not link the aid to their country’s intended NATO membership. In the Swedish press, however, the hope was expressed that the help would help improve the relationship. Erdogan had repeatedly sharply criticized the Swedish government and threatened that Sweden could not expect any support for its intended NATO membership.