With the body count around the Indian Ocean still rising, it is too early to judge the full impact on the ground of the massive aid the European Union has provided in response.

But the impact of EU generosity on the outside world raises another subject for reflection. The intensive and extensive media coverage of the tsunami and its aftermath has taken public awareness of a natural disaster to a new level. The voice and the face of the EU have not, however, been as prominent as might be expected.

The EU rose nobly and rapidly to the challenge of this cataclysm. But the unprecedented opportunity that this also provided to demonstrate the effectiveness of the EU to its own citizens, and to the wider world, has not been seized so adroitly.

It has not achieved the media visibility commensurate with its humanitarian effort. Its leaders have announced Community aid of Euro 473 million which, along with generous pledges from its Member States, establishes the EU as by far the world's leading donor.

Yet it is pictures of Colin Powell helicoptering over Banda Aceh that have monopolised the international media. Although Jose Manuel Barroso and Jean-Claude Juncker attended the summit in Jakarta, the EU engagement has remained almost invisible to television viewers...

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