Humanitarian relief and migration crises

60 - Ebola

Grade: B-
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 12/20

After a slow start, almost all EU states made financial contributions, with the UK and France leading medical and logistical support.

European governments were slow to respond to the outbreak of Ebola, but this reflected a slow reaction by the WHO and UN. In France, Médecins Sans Frontières was able to raise awareness relatively early, but it took a major push by the Obama administration to galvanise large-scale international action in the last four months of the year. This included a deployment of 3,000 troops to the region, a far bigger direct commitment than either any European country or the EU as a whole has been willing to make to date.

Almost all EU members have made some financial contribution to multilateral efforts to combat Ebola, although there has been domestic criticism of some, such as Spain, for continuing to move too slowly. France and the UK have had the greatest stake in the crisis due to their historical ties to two of the worst affected countries, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Through much of the crisis, it has been assumed that each would “adopt” their ex-colonies, while the US has had a comparable focus on Liberia.

French direct aid to Guinea helped limit the outbreak there, although its commitment of €120 million to wider aid efforts has been criticised as being too small. France and Germany also cooperated in setting up a European evacuation mechanism for international medical personnel (although Germany was embarrassed when one of its aircraft malfunctioned on a well-publicised flight to West Africa). Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden were the other most active EU donors. UK direct efforts, including a military medical deployment, proved less successful in Sierra Leone, but London has committed almost twice as much financially as Paris has to handling the crisis, winning praise from the US for enabling UN and WHO efforts.

Ebola has failed to reach worst-case scenario levels and there is a general agreement that the international response was, if imperfect, just about good enough.