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Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Humanitarian Forum

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 22 maart 2022.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

When we started preparations for this first European Humanitarian Forum, no one could have imagined that it would coincide with the worst humanitarian crisis in decades on European soil.

Almost three and a half million people have already left Ukraine, half of them children. We are seeing heart-breaking scenes at Ukrainian train stations. Women and children wave at their husbands, fathers and brothers through a train window, knowing it could be their last goodbye.

In response to this emergency, thousands of European families have opened their homes. Countless associations and NGOs are providing clothes, shelter, medicines, or are sending buses to drive Ukrainians to safety. All European Member States are doing their part. To help them, we have made sure that European funds can be used with utmost flexibility in support of refugees. And we are proposing to allocate an additional 3 billion euros to support our Member States that are welcoming our friends in need.

Yet the consequences of the Kremlin's aggression against Ukraine span well beyond Europe. Ukraine is the granary of the world. Ukraine alone provides more than half of the World Food Programme's wheat supply. Countries like Somalia rely entirely on Ukraine and Russia for their wheat imports. This Kremlin-made war is threatening food security across the world. And this is adding on an already dire situation. Humanitarian needs are at an all-time high. Because our world is still shattered by too many conflicts, from Syria to Yemen, from the Sahel to Ethiopia, from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

Never in the history of the world have there been so many refugees. Millions of them are hosted by low-income countries. And all of this, while climate change threatens millions of lives all across the world. We risk entering a new age of famine, in too many parts of the world.

The European Union has set aside over 2.5 billion euros until 2024 to help the regions most affected by food insecurity. We will be readying a range of special measures to step up European food production, also in support of countries most in need. Europe is the world's largest humanitarian donor. We call on others to step up their contributions too. Because the world needs humanitarian action more than ever before. This is a moment for all those who share a humanitarian spirit to join forces.

Europe will stay committed and do its part.


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