On Thursday 3 September, Niels Annen, Minister for State, at the German Federal Foreign Office, told the Development Committee that the presidency has two main priorities on humanitarian aid.

Firstly, it will put emphasis on anticipatory humanitarian action – pre-determined, pre-financed activities that, based on a credible forecast, enable early action ahead of crises (including action addressing disease outbreaks), in order to save lives, mitigate the impact of crises, – including on climate change, and promote a common EU position. Secondly, it will promote respect for compliance with international humanitarian law and humanitarian space. Notably, the presidency, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross will hold a discussion to allow the EU to take a strong stance on safeguarding humanitarian principles while respecting and contributing to global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the debate, MEPs asked the State Minister how he was planning to make progress given rising numbers of complex humanitarian crises globally. “Europe is a strong defender of humanitarian law and a major contributor of humanitarian aid. As a cross-cutting priority, and to facilitate coherence, the German presidency intends to strengthen the EU’s working party on humanitarian and food aid/COHAFA, as a relevant instrument for Member States. Additionally, the German presidency is committed to exploring ways to initiate an EU-China dialogue on humanitarian assistance during the Presidency”, he replied.

MEPs questioned how the presidency was planning to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a huge impact on humanitarian crises by increasing health-related needs, and worsening the economic situation of vulnerable populations. “Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic impact on humanitarian needs will be given priority attention on the Presidency’s agenda and directly influence COHAFA’s working methods and the substance of its deliberations for many months”, he replied. To this end, Minister of State reiterated support for the Team Europe approach – the collective and coordinated COVID-19 response by the EU and its Member States.