EU defends its Pakistan disaster response

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The European Union's executive defended on Tuesday its response to the devastating floods in Pakistan following criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said Brussels should do more.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underscored in a letter to Sarkozy that Brussels was "the first to react" on July 30 by providing aid to Pakistan, which totals 40 million euros (51.5 million dollars).

"But beyond the 40 million euros which you mentioned, my services have worked tirelessly in order to ensure that this money is spent on the ground as quickly as possible," Barroso wrote.

The commission chief said his team was once more "demonstrating its professionalism and efficiency in responding to great humanitarian crises."

In a letter to Barroso on Sunday, Sarkozy said Brussels should "do more" than what had been offered so far.

"I count on you for the EU to show its unity and determination," the French president wrote.

Sarkozy said France would soon make proposals to the EU in order to give the 27-nation bloc a "reaction capacity for this type of crisis."

But Barroso noted that he has already begun an "action plan" aimed at ensuring "the best possible mobilisation and coherence" of aid.

Humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva will "very soon" propose new policies for the EU's response to crises abroad, he said.

Barroso also said that Pakistan would likely need more aid and that the EU would decide how much more to provide before the end of August.

Torrential monsoon rain triggered catastrophic floods which have affected a fifth of Pakistan, wiping out villages, rich farm land, infrastructure and killing an estimated 1,600 people in the nation's worst natural disaster.

© 2010 AFP

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