Richard North, 03/01/2005  

They'd leap into your grave while its was still warm, these people.

With the relief effort underway and the EU noticeable by its absence, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's commissioner for external relations is leaping on the bandwagon demanding that the EU should set up a 5,000-strong "crisis management corps" to deal with disasters such as the Asian tsunamis.

This is shortly to be a formal proposal from the commission, which never misses an opportunity to exploit a crisis to its own advantage. The idea is that the EU should set up "teams of experts" for tasks such as disaster relief and emergency reconstruction.

Ms Ferrero-Waldner foresees a civilian equivalent to the EU's "battlegroups" - forces of up to 1,500 soldiers that are intended to act as bridgeheads in times of crisis. Her crisis management corps could be composed of about 5,000 experts identified beforehand by national governments, who would be exercised and trained, as well as placed under central co-ordination when on call.

She thinks it "would be great" if the corps could be ready by 2007, when the battlegroups are scheduled to come on line fully. "I would like to see the EU rapidly developing the capacity to deploy experts, with rapid reaction teams in disaster relief, firefighting, emergency reconstruction, on standby," she adds.

For an organisation that brought us the Common Fisheries Policy and the notorious fridge mountain, which has yet to demonstrate that it could successfully run a bath much less a major relief operation, the arrogance of this is quite staggering, if not somewhat predictable.

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