PM: EU must do more to fight Ebola

Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron is to urge fellow EU leaders to do more to tackle Ebola in west Africa, warning that failure to halt the killer disease there would risk future cases in Europe.

And he will also use a European Council leaders’ summit in Brussels to set his face against MEPs’ demands for more money for the EU budget.

The meeting looks set to be overshadowed by talks scheduled for Friday among the 18 eurozone states over the latest crisis in the European single currency.

Mr Cameron will not take part in the eurozone discussions, but will make clear to fellow leaders that Britain is “not immune” to the impact of the decisions they make, because of the knock-on effect on UK manufacturing and exports.

With £125 million pledged, Britain is by far the largest European donor to the fight against Ebola, and other EU states have so far failed to meet the Prime Minister’s challenge – in a letter to fellow-leaders last week – to provide a total of 1 billion euros (£790m) and 2,000 medical workers to tackle the outbreak. The UK’s contribution is four times what France has given and 50 times the amount provided by Spain, which has already experienced one Ebola case.

Following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg in Monday, it is thought that around 750 million euros (£593m) and around 1,000 personnel may be on the table today, but Mr Cameron wil l push for more cash, healthcare workers and equipment to assist Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the three countries at the centre of the epidemic.

“We are very clear that countries around the world need to recognise that by investing now to do more in the region, we help to protect ourselves from greater risk in the future,” a Government source said.

“If all 28 countries turned up at the Council and committed to do more, that would be quite a lot in terms of the three affected countries in the region.”

Mr Cameron will also make clear that Britain regards the European Parliament’s demand for a budget of 146.4 billion euros (£115.8bn) in 2015 – as well as extra top-up cash to cover overspending in 2014 – as unacceptable.

EU leaders agreed at a previous summit that next year’s budget should be no more than 140 billion euros (£110.7bn), and the Government source said that the MEPs’ bid was “unrealistic”.

“Clearly we think that what the European Parliament are looking for is unrealistic in the current situation, at a time when families across the continent are dealing with the impact of the great recession,” said the source.

“We think they should be looking more ruthlessly at how they prioritise spending.”

The Council meeting is expected to agree a climate change target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, which is backed by the UK, along with Germany and Scandinavian countries. European Council President Herman van Rompuy has made clear he would like to be able to announce agreement in Brussels, and France is keen to have a strong position in place ahead of international climate change negotiations in Paris next year.

UK Government sources said there was still some discussion to be had on the details of how the burden of emission reduction will be shared, saying that any deal needs to be ” cost-effective, fair and flexible”.

Mr Cameron will also seek the support of all 28 member-states for the position on Ukraine taken by him and three other EU leaders in Milan last week, when they told Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Europe wants to see the implementation of last month’s Minsk peace agreement, including more action by Moscow to prevent the flow of weapons across the border.

British assistance to tackle Ebola will increase over the next few weeks as UK-funded plans kick into action, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said.

Schemes include training more health workers as well as setting up burial units and local diagnosis and care centres.

Ms Greening, who has visited Sierra Leone, said: “I have seen for myself the impact that Ebola is having on Sierra Leone but among the most impressive things I have witnessed, as well as the heroic work of British medics, soldiers and humanitarian workers, is the response from the people of this country.

“Local people here are volunteering in their thousands to be trained as healthcare workers and burial workers, risking their lives to fight this disease.

“Britain is standing together with the people of Sierra Leone as they battle Ebola and our assistance and impact will only increase over the coming weeks and months.”

Dr Unni Krishnan, Plan’s head of disaster response and preparedness, said: “The Ebola outbreak is an unprecedented crisis with global dimensions and is having a devastating impact.

“Rich nations, including those in the EU, need to continue to be generous and deploy all possible resources to intensify the battle against Ebola. This is in the best interests of the countries already affected by Ebola, but also the wider world.”

Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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