Statement by Commissioner Várhelyi during his mission in Türkiye following devastating earthquake
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Thank you very much, Minister Çavuşoğlu, it's always a pleasure to be in Ankara, but it's not a pleasure to come on such sad event because we're all shocked by the horror of the people of Türkiye has to go through. We are with the Turkish people.
This is why we are here. We are here to help because we care, because we are friends, because we are allies. And I think this can't be underlined strong enough. This is why we came.
First of course, we want to extend the condolences to the families and the victims who have lost loved ones because my generation for sure has not seen such a devastating earthquake on the planet.
This is why the human suffering is immense and this is why we also have to take our share in trying to help Türkiye and its people to overcome this tragedy. In this context of course, for us, the European Commission, also for our president von der Leyen, the solidarity with the people of Türkiye is paramount and this is why my visit today is a testimony to that.
This is why our assistance will be quickly on the way. This is why we will help to mitigate not only the immediate effects but also the mid-term and long-term effects of this earthquake. Because we see that the vast area and the huge devastation it has created is still to be investigated and unfortunately the picture that is taking shape looks much worse than what we see today.
You've seen that already in the first hours of this earthquake we have mobilised swiftly our assistance, you've seen - also Minister have mentioned- 21 Member States have sent search and rescue teams.
We had more than 1750 people on the ground with 111 search dogs and they have been helping to save lives in the very crucial first 72 hours.
Together with the international partners, we have also showed our immediate support: We had five Member States sending medical teams, we had one Member State sending a whole plane to evacuate medical cases. We have installed immediately four field hospitals. We had 18 Member States sending shelters, medical equipment, clothes and so on and so on.
But of course, our help doesn't stop here. And we know that for those who have to suffer every day there in the region, the help cannot come fast enough. This is what we have discussed and this is what we have been trying to design together with our Swedish friends and colleagues and President of the Council of the European Union and our Turkish colleagues, how to be best available for the people as fast as we can.
So far, we have mobilised roughly five and a half million euros in support for the immediate and most urgent needs. This is of course only a first response. This is to provide immediate support and also the search and rescue operations.
But it is clear that we will need to do significantly more to overcome the human suffering and alleviate all the damages that has been done by the earthquake. It will take a huge reconstruction operation maybe something, again, that we have not seen before. And there we have agreed with the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Sweden, at the level of our President, President von der Leyen and the Swedish Prime Minister, that Europe must immediately organise a donors' conference to gather global support for Türkiye and I was very glad to hear already last week from my very good friend Minister Çavuşoğlu, that they share our idea that this is not only necessary, but this is also useful.
We have discussed now how best design it, how best roll it out. And with this conference, we want to mobilise the global community to come around and pledge and provide support: The UN family, the international financial organisations, some of the major civil society organisations and of course, including a significant pledge also from us, the European Union, and also from our Member States grouped in the Council of the European Union.
We are of course, getting into the picture and we start to get awareness of the immense damage the earthquake has created. Today we have heard some figures, but these are only first rough estimate, so I don't want to share it with you. But judging from that, we have a substantial damage.
We stand ready to meet this challenge and of course we will not be able to cover all of it, but we want to cover a significant part of it.
Therefore, the European Commission is ready to do everything in its power to help and we are ready to participate in building new houses, new schools, new hospitals, new nurseries, so that normal life can return to these regions in Türkiye.
This, of course will take time and this will of course be costly. But what is key now is to move as fast as we can so that the work on the ground can start.
We have met also with my Swedish colleague, Johan Forssell, other Ministers in the cabinet, the Finance Minister and also Minister Varank to see what the financial and economic damage is. And from the first figures we see that we need a global action on this.
So, all in all, what I can tell you today is that we will do our utmost to be quick, to be flexible, to be relevant, and to be helpful on the ground as fast as we can.
I'm very hopeful that this donors conference, which is due, hopefully, in a matter of weeks rather than months will bring this message also to the people of Türkiye that the international community is standing by them and will continue to support them all the way.