Commission guide: EU aid is making 'life-changing differences', says Stylianides

Cypriot commissioner is confronting 'unprecedented level of complex crises' in his portfolio but believes the EU can save lives and help the most vulnerable.

By James O'Brien

16 Feb 2015

Europe's humanitarian aid and crisis management commissioner Christos Stylianides sees "delivering essential assistance to people in need" as his "first and foremost responsibility". He says the EU is "a leading humanitarian donor" and "our primary focus remains on saving lives and helping the most vulnerable victims". Stylianides highlights that this work requires "adequate funding", especially given "the context of an unprecedented level of complex crises" in recent times. Another challenge Stylianides identifies is "the problem of increasingly difficult access to the victims of humanitarian crises", given what he calls a "growing level of insecurity and the shrinking of the humanitarian space, respecting international humanitarian law is non-negotiable," stresses the commissioner.

"We need to improve our ability to prevent humanitarian crises", says Stylianides. To achieve this, "we must invest in the different dimensions of building up the resilience of vulnerable communities to be better prepared for inevitable upcoming crises". The Cypriot commissioner warns that this "means that we need to invest in strengthening these communities in the short, medium and long terms".

"Accountability of the commission to the parliament and to our citizens is a necessity which must drive our collective action"

Stylianides highlights the "need to improve the international humanitarian system" and calls on "all humanitarian players" to coordinate to achieve this goal. He believes the "world humanitarian summit in Istanbul in 2016 is a unique opportunity to improve the system to better serve the people in need".

Stylianides believes the responsibilities that comprise his portfolio "make a life-changing difference" and that "this work is extremely important". He says, "It is comforting for me to be in assistance to alleviate human suffering around the world on behalf of the EU, working closely with our member states, United Nations partners, NGOs and civil society." Stylianides adds, "I am also responsible for fostering cooperation among civil protection authorities across Europe, as part of the EU civil protection mechanism, in the event of natural or man-made disasters in Europe and beyond."

The new 'project team' commission structure is something the former Cypriot government spokesperson sees as "wise and a prudent" as it "underlines the collective responsibility of the college of commissioners". For example, he cites the working relationship of all participating commissioners in the external relations project team as "strong and substantive". Stylianides adds, "My visit to Ankara and the Syrian borders with commission vice-president and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations commissioner Johannes Hahn represented the power of this new commission structure put in practice". Stylianides is convinced, "This joined-up approach is precisely what we need in order to successfully face challenges and bring about a real positive change for better delivery of results."

The Ebola outbreak saw Stylianides take on the role of EU Ebola coordinator and visit three of the worst affected areas with health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. He recalls, "We saw first-hand the problems and the needs. It became clear to me that we will be in this fight for a long time. We must not only fight Ebola and defeat the disease, but also help the recovery and prevent similar outbreaks in the future." He insists that actions taken thus far are "starting to show tangible results". However, for the fight against Ebola to be effective, Stylianides says the EU "must continue our three-pronged approach: step up, adapt, and crucially, sustain". The commissioner concludes that, "We cannot defeat Ebola unless we invest in rebuilding the healthcare systems of the affected countries and unless we tackle the social effects of this epidemic, such as the disruptions in education." Having himself been elected to the European parliament in last year's elections, the Cypriot commissioner says, "Accountability of the commission to the parliament and to our citizens is a necessity which must drive our collective action." He is "fully committed to building up an open, transparent and trustful relationship with MEPs, and especially with parliament's development committee" and expresses confidence that "the parliament will continue to be a key partner in guiding our work in the areas related to my portfolio".

Christos Stylianides is European humanitarian aid and crisis management commissioner


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