Fischer Travels to Crisis Region | Current Affairs | DW | 07.01.2005
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Current Affairs

Fischer Travels to Crisis Region

German Foreign Minister Fischer left on Friday on a trip to visit countries in South Asia devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Before he left, he called on the EU to better coordinate its crisis response systems.

Fischer will stop in Thailand to get a first-hand look at the devastation

Fischer will stop in Thailand to get a first-hand look at the devastation

The foreign minister will travel to Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka to discuss relief measures in the wake of the natural catastrophe in South Asia and personally observe the extent of the devastation there.

While in Thailand's capital Bangkok, he will meet with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Fischer will visit the island of Phuket, a tourist destination popular with Germans and where many lost their lives. On Phuket, Fischer will take part in a memorial service for victims.

In Sri Lanka, Fischer will meet President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. He will also be present at a memorial service in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

Fischer is expected back in Berlin on Wednesday.

High-level visits

Other high-ranking western politicians have been touring the region, including British Prime Minister Jack Straw and outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. At a press conference in Colombo, Powell praised the international community for its outpouring of aid, saying he had never experienced a willingness to help on this level before.

Kofi Annan in Banda Aceh Seebeben

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was also in the region, where he visited the Indonesia island of Sumatra, which bore the brunt of nature's wrath.

"Where are all the people?" he asked, surveying the wasted landscape. He added he had never seen such complete and total destruction.

Crisis center

Before leaving for the Asia trip, Fischer took part in an emergency meeting of EU ministers in Brussels on coordinating relief efforts for the region. The conference discussed proposals to build a "rapid response" aid force that would be made up of coordinated national forces and would be activated in times of natural disaster.

Joschka Fischer zu Seebeben

Fischer supported the idea, but called on the EU to improve its overall coordination in response to crises. He warned that for a response force to be effective, it would have to first be efficient and not be bogged down by red tape.

He reminded the ministers at the meeting that although South Asia bore the brunt of the catastrophe, "one part of this tragedy is also a European tragedy."

More than 4,500 European tourists who were in the region when the earthquake struck are still missing, including 1,000 Germans.

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