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EU Foreign Ministers – coordinated action against Ebola

21.10.2014 - Article

The fight against the Ebola epidemic was at the top of the agenda at the consultations in Luxembourg.

The EU consultations in Luxembourg on Monday (20 October) focused on the action to tackle the Ebola epidemic. Foreign Minister Steinmeier had already strongly advocated coordinated action prior to the meeting. Among the ministers there was consensus on the need for action to be coordinated at the EU level as well as for capacities to be pooled. Moreover, the Council conclusions took up the German Foreign Minister’s idea of setting up a pool of “white helmet” experts.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Luxembourg
Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Luxembourg© picture-alliance/Wiktor Dabkowski

The Foreign Ministers were set to spend the morning in Luxembourg tackling “the packed agenda” which awaited them, stressed Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the start of the EU consultations. At their meeting in Luxembourg, he and his EU counterparts focused primarily on the Ebola crisis and its global impact. They also issued Council conclusions on the conflict in the Middle East, the fight against ISIS and the Ukraine crisis.

Ebola poses a threat to whole infrastructures and countries

The Foreign Ministers had an in-depth discussion about the action to tackle the Ebola epidemic. Above all, it poses a threat to the West African countries Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. To date more than 4,500 people in the region have died from the virus. In the Council conclusions, the Foreign Ministers also expressed their deep appreciation for the helpers on the front line and reiterated their readiness to support them.

EU Foreign Ministers meeting
EU Foreign Ministers meeting© Phtothek/Trutschel

At the start of the consultations, Foreign Minister Steinmeier had made it clear that the Ebola epidemic was not only a human tragedy: “This epidemic threatens to make entire infrastructures and whole countries collapse,” warned the Foreign Minister.

In Luxembourg, Steinmeier stressed that it was now vital for the EU to coordinate its action in order to counter the epidemic: “Globally, we were certainly not prepared for the momentum of this epidemic. That makes it all the more important that we now make up for lost time.” In EU circles on Monday, there was consensus on the need to coordinate at the EU level and to pool capacities.

For coordinated action and pooling capacities in the EU

At the opening of the World Health Summit at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on Sunday evening (19 October), Steinmeier had already called for “new forms of international cooperation” to deal with “cross-border health risks”.

View of the conference room
View of the conference room© European Council

Steinmeier had also urged that lessons already be learnt from dealing with the Ebola epidemic: the crisis had shown how important it was to develop a 'pool' of medical and logistics experts which could be deployed in the event of future crises. In an article for the daily newspaper Bild (20 October), Steinmeier also underlined that in the future, this group of “white helmets” should help to “nip dangerous epidemics in the bud”. Click here to read the article.

The Foreign Affairs Council conclusions took up the German Foreign Minister’s idea of setting up a pool of “white helmet” experts. In addition to this the EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the introduction of a European coordinator in the fight against the Ebola epidemic. At the end of the meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that the EU needed someone who could swiftly organise measures and handle the need for help.

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