Dods EU Briefing: EU response to the Ebola outbreak

European Parliament, Commission and Council discuss EU's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Please note that this document does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On September 17 2014, the European Parliament plenary discussed the EU’s response to the Ebola outbreak with representatives from the European Commission and Council. Please find a summary of the debate below. On September 18, the European Parliament adopted a joint Motion for resolution.

Benedetto Della Vedova, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, representing the Italian EU Presidency of the Council, said that the recent epidemic was the biggest of its kind, provoking concern internationally. As well as public health and humanitarian issues, the Council is gravely concerned by the socio-economic and security consequences for West Africa. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the risk of contraction by EU residents and travellers is low. The EU has taken a leadership role in the international community, with foreign ministers calling for detailed follow-up and a proper international response.

Follow-up actions have taken place in the area of humanitarian aid, with the EU and Member States reacting with financial support as soon as it began. The Member States, in close coordination with the Commission, have analysed the need for humanitarian assistance at the request of the WHO and UNHCR. Since the crisis began, the Member States have been stepping up to offer further assistance. For example, the UK began to equip a treatment centre near Freetown, Sierra Leone, Germany has taken in WHO staff members who contracted Ebola and Italy has been contributing money since the start of the crisis (€1.2 million for prevention and treatment to date). A framework is necessary for the coordination of air transport for medical, humanitarian, personnel and resources, in addition to foreseeing the rebuilding after the crisis.

The Italian Presidency, with the Commission and EEAS, is coordinating the response of the EU. In terms of public health, an EU response framework is active to protect human health in the EU. At EU level, Member States are coordinating their responses to serious cross border health threats. The most recent high level meeting of the network of competent national authorities (in addition to the Commission and the ECDC) took place in Brussels on September 15. The EU health ministers are also due to discuss the Ebola crisis at an informal meeting in Milan on September 22/23, with a focus on medium to long term follow-up, information for travellers and citizens, evacuation, availability of treatment and vaccines and the need for the EU to support increased global leadership and coordination. He hoped that this overview testified to the commitment of the EU in fighting this disease.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said that following the comprehensive presentation from the Council, she wanted to elaborate further on three points: the character of the epidemic; what is being done at the Commission to advance a coordinated response; and the approach being taken to protect the European population. Her speech is available in full from this link.

Davor Ivo Stier (EPP, HR) noted that the virus is spreading exponentially, with as many as 20,000 cases expected by the WHO by the end of 2014. A responsible discussion is needed, one that does not frighten citizens, but recognising that the international community has underestimated the crisis and that a decisive response is needed. The EU’s partner organisations are saying that they need organisational support, medical supplies, technical capacities, properly trained medical staff and proper information for the local population. The Commission should step up its efforts and he called on ministers to come up with a concrete plan. The EU needs to show leadership in order to protect its own citizens.

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