29th Mar 2023

EU proposes to speed up aid for poor countries

  • The 27-nation bloc spent €49 billion on development aid in 2008 (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission on Wednesday (8 April) presented a series of actions aimed at boosting aid for developing countries in the wake of the global financial crisis, but without putting additional money on the table.

Instead of adding new aid, Brussels is suggesting ways to speed up the delivery of the existing funds and to make it more efficient.

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This year, the commission will accelerate the payment of €3 billion from the budget support to African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) countries, as well as make available a further €800 million from a fund aimed at combating hunger in poor countries and set up in December.

"We have not come here to announce to you additional colossal measures," EU development commissioner Louis Michel said at a press conference in Brussels.

But "in two years, we will have mobilised 72 percent of what was supposed to be provided as budgetary support for 2008 – 2013," he added.

The commissioner also urged EU member states to be more co-ordinated, arguing this would substantially increase the money available for developing countries.

"We just recently had figures from a study which we commissioned talking about the cost of non-Europe – bad coordination among donors, bad coordination of our rules. The cost of not having Europe is quite amazing, horrifying according to the initial figures of that study," commissioner Michel said.

"Better or more effective coordination between commission and the 27 member states would release about €7 billion per year, or €35 billion between now and 2015."

"This whole package is a plea to have more Europe," he added.

In 2000, 189 countries worldwide agreed eight goals aimed to reduce global poverty by 2015 – referred to as the Millennium Development Goals.

The EU's own goal is to spend 0.7 percent of its GDP on development aid by then.

Also speaking at Wednesday's press conference, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso urged EU states to stick to this goal, underlining however that "the perspectives for the upcoming years seem rather preoccupying."

"We are now more than half way to the 2015 deadline for reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals and some of the gains achieved so far risk being forfeited leaving poor countries worse off than before the crisis," Mr Barroso said.

The 27-nation bloc spent €49 billion on development aid in 2008, making it the largest donor in the world.

"The recession must not, cannot, will not be used as an excuse for going back on our promises to keep on increasing aid," he added.

'Nothing new'

However, the commission's announcements were met with scepticism by development NGOs, slamming Brussels's proposals for a lack of substance.

"As nothing outwardly new has been announced today, we're not clear on how Europe is actually going to soften the blow of the financial crisis in poor countries," Alexandre Polack, head of European policy division at ActionAid, was quoted as saying by AFP.

"We have not seen any useful ideas coming out of this package on how to support developing countries in dealing with climate change, on stopping tax evasion or on coping with the effects of trade policies," he added.

Hetty Kovac from Oxfam International echoed this statement, saying: "We fear that with no new money, poor countries will suffer in years to come, when aid dries up. Europe needs to dig deep to help prevent this crisis from becoming a humanitarian disaster."


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