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Brussels seeks European disaster response force

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) March 5, 2008
The European Commission on Wednesday relaunched an initiative to create an EU civil protection force to intervene anywhere in the world in case of a natural or man-made disaster.

The idea was first advanced in 2006 but was blocked by several member states who had reservations about a pan-Europe body with such a broad mandate.

A spokesman for the Commission, the EU's executive arm, said attitudes were changing in light of disasters last summer including flooding, forest fires and storm damage among member states.

"There is a common desire among member states to increase the cooperation, to look at filling the existing gaps," European Commission spokesman Mark Gray said.

But he admitted that previously "some member states have expressed concern" over both the EU's competence to take such action abroad and the logistics involved.

"When you speak to the citizens when they are facing a forest fire they don't ask... is this the council or the commission, they are simply looking for some help," he told reporters in Brussels, referring to the resources of the member states versus those of the EU executive.

On top of its idea of a civil protection force, the EU executive also presented to member states and the European parliament a series of proposals to boost the capacity of the European Union to react in times of disaster.

These included setting up a Europe-wide disaster training network and improving preparedness, including an early warning system for tsunamis in the Mediterranean.

The Commission would also like to introduce a bloc-wide 112 emergency telephone number for disaster aid and relief.

"When helping tsunami victims in South Asia, evacuating EU citizens from war-torn Lebanon or fighting floods and forest fires in Europe -- we can only protect our citizens and help others if we act together in solidarity," said EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

The initiatives would cover man-made disasters such as some of the forest fires or oil slicks from tanker ships, both within the EU and elsewhere.

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Outsourcing The Answer For EU Forces, Commander Says
Brussels (UPI) Mar 03, 2008
In order to fill critical logistical gaps in EU forces' crisis-management missions, the best solution could be provided by outsourced logistics contracts to the private sector, Henri Bentegeat, chairman of the EU Military Commission, said at a European Defense Agency conference. The Chinese government has signed a 10-year contract for 150 helicopters and approximately $500 million with Poland's partially state-owned PZL Swidnik, Rzeczpospolita reported. The U.S. government has declared itself prepared to acquiesce to Polish demands in the missile shield negotiations, according to Defense News. Polish state-owned Bumar signed six contracts to supply India with armored cars, anti-mine vehicles, movable anti-aircraft equipment and self-propelled cannons, according to Polish newspaper Dziennik. The United Arab Emirates announced that it will buy EADS' A330 MRTT transport-tanker for its UAE Air Force & Air Defense, EADS announced on its Web site.

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