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No Battlegroup for Haiti. Catherine Ashton's Baptism of Fire

Crisis meeting today at the European Commission
. As every day since Wednesday, and the start of international mobilization in the face of the earthquake in Haiti, there was a crisis meeting at the European Commission. Around the table: the main people responsible for crisis management: the humanitarians (Echo), the development (DG dev), the civil security (MIC DG Environment), the civil staff (CPCC Klompenhouwer) and the military of the EU (General Leakey), Etc.
Objective: take stock of the situation, identify resources and activate others if necessary (1). This meeting is however a little more solemn than the previous ones since it was
introduces Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

In all countries, crisis meetings follow one another, here Carme Chacon, the Spanish Minister of Defence, in a meeting with the heads of the Emergency Military Unit (UME) who are going there. (Photo credit :
Ministry of Defense) (2)

No need for a battle group. " For the moment - summarizes one of the participants — we are more in the means of humanitarian aid (ECHO) and then. The "Battlegroup" option has not been ruled out. But it is not considered as it is. The same applies to a possible police mission ". The conditions have not yet been met (in particular the invitation by the Member State, a necessary prerequisite for any civilian defense operation).  « The immediate priority of operations - the Commission is told in a press release - was to deliver the equipment necessary for the removal of the debris, to dispatch the search and rescue teams as well as to provide emergency relief, water, field hospitals, tents, means of communication and foodstuffs. "The EU has however" also indicated that it is ready to provide any other necessary assistance in other sectors »
A sentence, explains someone close to the file, which means that "all other options (like defense missions) are considered". But to tell the truth, for the moment, the attention of the EU's chief diplomat is mainly focused on reconstruction. Catherine Ashton, who was responding to the press yesterday, said so expressly European aid is carried out in close coordination with the United Nations. And, For the moment, we have not been asked for soldiers on the spot. ».

Priority to reconstruction. On Monday, an exceptional council of development ministers is convened in Brussels to take stock of short-term measures. This meeting will, above all, make it possible to consider the second phase: the reconstruction efforts. It will be chaired by Catherine Ashton (with the assistance of the Spanish Minister). It will, in fact, be his baptism of fire in a way as President of the Council of Ministers. The European Commission will be represented by Karel de Gucht, the current Commissioner for Development.  

Commentary: Ashton's baptism of fire. Haiti is thus the first international crisis where the new EU system - wanted by the 27 and written in the Lisbon Treaty - is being put in place. The various external action services (humanitarian, development, military, crisis management) come together and coordinate under the authority of a single person.

(1) A coordination team is present in Haiti, made up of seven people (a French team leader assisted by an Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Estonian, British and a liaison officer from the MIC).
(2) There are no photos available from the European meeting.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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