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EU ministers back Afghan aid revamp

EU ministers back Afghan aid revamp

EU foreign ministers agreed Tuesday to overhaul Europe's joint civilian aid strategy in Afghanistan, promising to deliver better and more effective aid to stabilize the country.
Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt acknowledged the European Union's current aid plan is not working well amid widespread corruption and increased fighting between Taliban and insurgent forces against NATO troops.
"There has to be a new start," Bildt said. "There has to be a dedicated, credible reform strategy by the Afghan authorities."
The bloc's 27 foreign ministers backed a new strategy which holds Afghan officials to account in the use of European aid money.
The plan states the EU will help any credible government that emerges out of Nov. 7 presidential runoff. The EU strategy focuses on improving human rights, education and the rule of law.
The runoff was scheduled between President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah after U.N.-backed auditors found widespread fraud in the first round balloting in August.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU's executive commission was drafting a "substantial" aid increase to bolster the new plan.
Officials said extra Commission aid could amount to ⁈llion ($300 million) for Afghanistan and up to ⁈lion ($111 million) for Pakistan over the next three years.
The EU as a whole already spends some $1 billion a year in aid and development assistance in Afghanistan, and member states have spent more than ⁈ion ($13 billion) in aid to Afghanistan since 2002, mostly in propping up the government's finances and supporting U.N. projects.
European countries are wary, however, of increasing their aid efforts in Afghanistan amid allegations of fraud during the August elections, which is making it harder for EU leaders to sell to their voters why the bloc should help Afghanistan.
"What we have seen during in the last few months with the presidential election has led to a really sort of declining confidence both internally and externally in the mission in Afghanistan. That must repaired," Bildt said.
"That can only be repaired by a very credible reform program immediately after the second round of elections," he said.
Member states have failed to fully staff a 400-strong police training mission. They also regularly overlap spending on many aid projects, meaning money is not well spent.
"We need to get our EU police mission out on the ground," said Alexander Stubb, Finland's foreign minister. "We are up to 236 police right now, out of a promised 400. To be honest, I think that is weak from our part ... The mission should be bigger."
Many EU countries have also failed to heed repeated calls from NATO and the United States to send more troops to help the alliance's military mission.
"We have to start moving. Otherwise it will take years and years," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, admitting that coordination between EU nations currently "does not run deep."
EU officials said the bloc could pay more into an international fund that pays for salaries of civil servants, police and soldiers, as well as coordinate new funding with the U.N. and the U.S. to persuade farmers not to grow poppies, used to make heroin.
The EU is also considering backing a training center for civil servants and helping improve Afghan border controls.


Updated : 2021-07-24 23:43 GMT+08:00