Blog AnalysisCivil protection

[Analysis] The Alliance's little lie about humanitarian aid to Turkey after the earthquake

(B2) The earthquake in Türkiye took the Atlantic Alliance by surprise. The organization which usually carries out its action in a linear, planned manner, found itself in fact quite helpless in the face of this earthquake which required the rapid dispatch of men and equipment. It has tried to prove the effectiveness of its rapid reaction system (EADRCC). At the cost of an artifice bordering on lies.

Bulgarian rescue team working around a building destroyed by the earthquake in Turkey (photo: ECHO – Bulgarian Civil Protection)

What does the Alliance say?

« More than 1400 emergency response personnel from more than twenty NATO Allies and partners — including Finland and Sweden — are deployed to Turkey to help respond to the February 6 earthquakes » indicates the Alliance in a communicated published Tuesday. It is indeed true. There is " more than 1400 rescuers and 100 search dogs » sent on the spot from the beginning.

What the Alliance fails to say is that this aid was mainly provided within the framework of the European Civil Protection Mechanism (UPCM) of the European Commission (1). In fact, according to our information, only two countries (Iceland and Azerbaijan) responded through the NATO center. All other European countries that sent relief supplies – 26 EU countries, as well as three third countries (Albania, Montenegro and Serbia) – preferred to go through the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

A reality all the more difficult to accept on the Alliance side, as Turkey – although not a member of the EU, but a participant in the European civil protection mechanism – triggered the European mechanism first. Because she knows its effectiveness having tested it several times. It was only six hours later that she triggered the NATO mechanism.

NATO's white lie

When NATO thus asserts that the “ Support is provided through NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC), the Alliance's primary civilian emergency response mechanism in the Euro-Atlantic area. ", we thus move from the pious lie by omission, to the false assertion. Especially when the Alliance fails to say a single word about the action of the European Commission (2). An oversight all the stranger as the two organizations have sworn, through successive EU-NATO declarations, to cooperate, particularly in civil areas.

The map of the interventions of the European rescue teams source ECHO / B2

Why the EU and not NATO ?

It’s simple, the EU civil protection mechanism has several strengths. Starting with its experience, its scope of action… and its budget!

30 years of experience

Attached to the European Humanitarian Aid Office, created thirty years ago, in the midst of the Yugoslav War in 1992, this mechanism, created in 2001, is today particularly well-established. It brings together, beyond just the members of the European Union, eight countries from the European neighborhood, including Turkey. According to a fairly simple principle: “You help me one day, I help you the next”.

A very civil operation

It functions as an exchange between the requesting country and the countries sending men and materials. And according to one principle: “neutrality” of action. His intervention is intended to be “apolitical”, “civil” and is above all “odorless”. Each country can thus claim the aid sent as national and purely civilian (even if it is often provided by the military). Through NATO, aid immediately appears to be very political and very military. Logically, the role of NATO remains a politico-military organization, unlike the European Union, a politico-civil organization.

A crisis room prone to disasters of all kinds

Its 24-hour command room (aka ERCC) regularly manages a whole series of emergencies: from forest fires in summer to earthquakes or technological disasters, such as the explosion at the port of Beirut (read file No. 86. Europe facing the crisis in Lebanon after the explosion of August 4, 2020), via the Covid-19 crisis or the wars (read: Humanitarian aid, civil protection and Medevac. The European aid plan for Ukraine).

A powerful financial asset

Above all, the EU mechanism has a damn effective argument: money and organization. With a substantial budget (3), it makes it possible to finance a good part of the costs: 75% of operational deployment costs (in particular transport of equipment and teams) are covered in the case of Turkey, confirmed to B2 a rescue officer. In other words, quite an incentive. Because the rest of the costs (staff salaries, etc.) are in any case borne by the States.

An administration dedicated to crisis response

The system is also very well established. In 2021, it was triggered 114 times. In other words, once every three days. Managed by a general directorate of the Commission, that in charge of Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO), it anticipates crises, by signing framework contracts either with NGOs (for humanitarian aid) or with suppliers. To this must be added the European Commission's emergency reserve (RescUE) set up since 2019 and reinforced after the Covid-19 crisis, making it possible to have several stocks or specialized services to respond to certain emergencies (fires). forests, medical, NRBC).

Comment: a very childish game

We can understand why a State, even a member of the Alliance, prefers to go through the EU system rather than NATO. It does not have this organization or this budget. Between the two, it's a bit like a comparison between a professional football club and an amateur Sunday buddies club. There is no photo. Rather than ignoring the European Union, in a rather childish way, NATO would have every interest in highlighting it to praise the good cooperation that reigns (even if it rarely exists in this case) between the two organizations. Instead, we are in a kind of “pants marking”, particularly pitiful, all the more serious in the midst of Russia-West tension, where disinformation is raging. The Alliance would not like to agree with Russia, which regularly accuses NATO of lying about the war in Ukraine, and would not do it any other way...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. More than 1400 rescuers and 100 search dogs, 29 search and rescue teams, 6 medical teams according to the EU press release.
  2. When questioned by us, NATO was unable to detail, country by country, the number of rescuers sent. Admitting that this number was “ compiled based on official Turkish and Allied announcements ».
  3. Civil protection has €3,3 billion over the seven-year budget period, or almost half a billion € per year on average, including €170 million for RescUE's forest fires system alone in 2023. As for the budget for humanitarian aid, it amounts to 1,7 billion in 2023.

Read our sheets (reserved for members):

Updated 12.2 23:50 p.m. – number of European countries intervening + intervention map

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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