Haiti: relief and “ongoing attention” from Europe Aid to the population of Haiti devastated by the earthquake is a major priority in the EU agenda. The Council, Commission, Parliament and the High Representative for foreign affairs of the EU held a joint meeting to this regard a few days ago. “220 million will be set aside for medium and long-term rebuilding. EU relief forces are present in Port-au-Prince and “are actively cooperating with the international forces”. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security, Catherine Ashton, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos – whose country occupies the current six-month EU presidency post – and the Commissioner for humanitarian aid Karel De Gucht, who was sent on the site, are on constant guard. The EU is also considering deploying up to 150 members of the European Gendarmerie Force “to strengthen security during the distribution of aid, upon request of the United Nations”. The EU will hold an “international conference for the long-term reconstruction” of the Caribbean Country. The issue was included in the agenda of the upcoming summit of EU-27 Heads of Government and State, due to be held February 11 in Brussels. Ombudsman: “The culture of service in EU institutions””Improving the quality of Community administration” and “promoting a culture of service in EU institutions for the benefit of EU citizens”: these are the first two commitments announced by Nikiforos Diamandouros, Greek jurist, re-elected Ombudsman by the European Parliament (EP) with 340 votes out of a total of 648 valid votes cast during the plenary session of January 18-21. The other two candidates were Vittorio Bottoli from Italy and Pierre-Yves Monette from Belgium. Three working priorities will characterize the next five-year mandate (Diamandouros had been nominated for the first time in 2003). Firstly, “to help citizens make full use of their rights, as provided for under the Treaty of Lisbon and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. “This goal concerns specifically the right to good administration, the right of access to EU documents”. The second point is “to promote a culture of service in the EU institutions for the benefit of European citizens”. Finally, “the efficiency of the Ombudsman’s office must be stepped up” along with the citizen’s right to turn to the Ombudsman.Biodiversity: species and habitat at riskProtecting biodiversity to enhance environmental protection and human health. On January 19 the Commission opened the International Year of Biodiversity, promoted by the United Nations for 2010 with a paper “setting out future options for biodiversity policy. Despite past efforts, species extinctions are continuing at alarming rates, and a new vision is required to halt these losses”, is stated in the document. “In 2001, the EU set out to halt biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010”. Since this “high target” was missed, the Executive launched a debate between EU institutions and Member States in view of adopting realistic measures. The Commission underlines that according to UN findings, biodiversity loss “is reaching sky-rocketing levels and a third of 1.75 million animal and plant species known to man is at risk” of extinction. Such species include the beluga whale, the Iberian lynx, the koala, and the acropora formosa. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “New targets are needed, as the current EU and global biodiversity targets expire after 2010. “We will step up our efforts and put in place a new policy and strategy for the post-2010 period. We cannot afford to turn our backs on the fight against biodiversity loss, and a high level of ambition to underpin our policy in the coming period is essential”. The paper illustrates the current situation and highlights the major causes of biodiversity loss along with the repercussions on the environment, the economy and society. “The planet’s biodiversity is under serious threat. The cause of biodiversity loss is human activity, bringing land-use change, over-exploitation, unsustainable practices, invasive species, that causes the destruction of habitats and species”. A conference on the issue, promoted by the EU and by the Council of Europe is due to take place in Madrid next January 26 – 27 in Madrid, called “Post-2010 Biodiversity Vision and Target”.