Ireland urged to defend EU development aid

Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013

 Judith Crosbie, The Irish Times

People in poorer countries will suffer if proposed cuts to the EU budget go ahead at talks next week, campaigners have warned. They called on the Irish presidency of the EU to defend aid money, saying proposed cuts to farming were marginal in comparison.

European leaders are to hold talks on February 7th-8th in Brussels on the EU’s seven-year €1 trillion budget. Proposals have been made to cut back the EU foreign policy budget from €70 billion to €60.6 billion, a 13 per cent cut. Cuts to EU development aid would be from €30 billion to €26.9 billion, an 11 per cent cut.

In contrast the proposed cut to the agriculture and natural resources budget is 4.4 per cent; the cut to the jobs and growth budget is 8.4 per cent.

“We don’t think that is fair,” said Hans Zomer, director of Dóchas, an umbrella group for development agencies. “People in the poorest countries will suffer because of this,” he said. The EU was hurting its own interests by cutting the budget since aid went to help developing economies grow into potential markets and trading partners, he added.

It would also leave a vacuum in some regions that would be filled by other countries – such as China and the US – eager to tap new markets. “This investment pays dividends in the long run,” said Mr Zomer.

Many of the countries demanding a reduction in the EU’s overall budget were countries that have traditionally had a commitment to increased spending on development aid, such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. While some of these states would prefer to see a bigger cut to the agriculture budget, this was seen as more controversial than cutting development aid.

“Development aid is a soft target,” said Frank Humphreys of development news website World and Media.

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