Number of earthquake deaths increases – Berlin boosts aid

Istanbul/Damascus (dpa) – In regions in Syria and Turkey hit by the devastating earthquakes, more and more bodies are being recovered from the remains of collapsed buildings in the search for buried people. The Turkish authorities have corrected the number of confirmed victims upwards several times – more than 11,700 people died in the two countries (as of February 8). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised those affected financial support, while acknowledging difficulties in rescue operations. Meanwhile, international aid has been stepped up. In Berlin, for example, the federal government increased its humanitarian aid for Syria and Turkey by a further 26 million euros. According to the Federal Foreign Office, a total of 25 million euros are earmarked for two United Nations aid funds and one million for the German Catholic NGO Malteser Hilfsdienst. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in the Bundestag that Germany was already delivering aid to Turkey and was in close contact with the United Nations to bring humanitarian aid to the Syrian earthquake area.

The situation is particularly confusing in northern Syria. Support there is difficult, not least because of the political situation – for example at the only open border crossing Bab al-Hawa between Turkey and Syria. There, a damaged road delayed the delivery of humanitarian aid. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the road has now been repaired. The UN was confident that the first trucks would be able to drive again on February 9th.

Bab al-Hawa is the last of what were once four border crossings through which aid can also reach parts of Syria that are not controlled by the government. Civil war has been raging in Syria since 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government now controls around two-thirds of the fragmented country again. Aid supplies that come into the country via the capital Damascus are distributed by Assad’s government. There have repeatedly been reports over the past years that the government is enriching itself and ignoring areas that it considers hostile. Thousands of people are still missing in Syria alone. There is a lack of equipment to clear debris.

Given the freezing temperatures, time is of the essence. Turkey in particular can rely on help from abroad. On February 8, around 50 volunteers from Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) arrived in Gaziantep in the south-east of the country. Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, a church-run aid organization, announced that partner organizations had begun distributing mattresses, winter clothing, blankets and drinking water to those affected. Many organizations called for donations. According to the Federal Ministries of the Interior and Defense, tents, sleeping bags, camp beds, blankets, heaters and generators, among other things, are being sent to the disaster area from Germany. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the deliveries amounted to about 82 tons of material with a total value of 1 million euros. According to the German air force, the Bundeswehr wants to fly out around 50 tons of relief supplies on February 9th. There are said to be three flights a day with aid deliveries.

To support the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to host an international donor conference together with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. The event is planned for March in Brussels, both sides announced on February 8, without giving a specific date. (February 8)

After London and Paris, Zelensky meets EU members in Brussels

Brussels (AFP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Brussels on February 9 to ask leaders of the 27 Member States meeting at the summit to deliver combat planes to him in the face of the advances of the Russian army, a year after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

After stops in London and Paris the day before, the Ukrainian President will thank the leaders of the European Union for their military, financial and humanitarian support. According to their own estimate, aid from the EU and member states has amounted to “at least” 67 billion euros since the outbreak of the conflict.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola hailed the visit “a historic day for Europe.”

Zelensky spoke to speak to MEPs gathered in plenary, attend the EU summit and conduct bilateral talks with bloc leaders. (February 9)


New Bosnia and Herzegovina foreign minister in reform talks with EU

Brussels (FENA) – The new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Elmedin Konaković, paid an official visit to Brussels, where he discussed with high-ranking officials of the European Union the necessary reforms that BiH must implement after it was granted the status of a candidate country last year.

Konaković also met with the EU-Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Várhelyi, who said that the candidate status was a sign that the EU believes in BiH and shares the hope and faith of the country’s people for a better future. He added that BiH was now facing many challenges and a lot of work in the implementation of the reform agenda.

Minister Konaković pointed out that with his first official visit to Brussels, he wanted to underline BiH’s strong commitment to the European path and the continuation of the reform process. He emphasized that after BiH had been granted the status of a candidate for EU membership, the time had come for the country to turn over a new leaf and continue the necessary reforms that would bring a better life to the citizens.

During his visit to Brussels, Konaković also met with the chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) David McAllister, the rapporteur of the European Parliament for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paul Rangel, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, Hadja Lahbib. (February 7)

Commission against setting new requirements for Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen area

Brussels (BTA) – It is not fair to set new requirements for Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Agreement, said the Vice-President of the European Commission (EC), Maros Šefčovič, after a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council. His comment was in response to a question about the additional conditions imposed by Vienna and The Hague.

    “We have repeatedly stated that Bulgaria and Romania fulfill all the conditions to be accepted into Schengen, both countries are really doing everything possible to prepare well for membership,”

the deputy chairman of the EC, Maros Šefčovič, said.

Sefcovic said that the meeting discussed the expectation of several countries that the EU would provide a budget for the fence along the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. The EC aimed to provide a European budget where it would bring the greatest added value, explained Šefcović. The Commission is ready to allocate funds for the repair and expansion of border posts, for border surveillance and maintenance, new computer networks and training of border guards.

In an interview for BTA, MEP Ilhan Kyuchuk stated that the issue of the Schengen accession was undermining the trust of Bulgarian citizens in the EU and stigmatizing Bulgarian society. (February 6)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.