News / Europe

Charities Say EU Budget Crunch Affects Foreign Aid

Electronic boards at the Madrid stock exchange, Spain, June 19, 2012.
Electronic boards at the Madrid stock exchange, Spain, June 19, 2012.
Lisa Bryant
PARIS - Some of the planet's poorest countries may be feeling the fallout of Europe's financial crisis. New studies show that European Union development aid is falling, and that billions of dollars are not reaching needy countries.

Released Monday, a report by Concord, a European non-government organization, found that a growing number of European Union countries are falling short of promises to earmark 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product for development aid.

Perhaps more worrying, said Concord's aid watch coordinator Zuzana Sládková, the trend will likely continue, as European nations struggle with a financial crisis that is now in its third year.

"We think that even in a time of financial crisis, member states can fulfill their commitments that they promise," she said. "It looks like the trend is the opposite."

The Concord report said that 11 EU countries cut their aid levels in 2011. Another nine plan further cuts this year.

Anti-poverty group, ONE, released similar findings. The group said those cutting their aid budgets include struggling eurozone countries like Greece, Spain and Italy - but also Europe's two biggest economies, France and Germany.

Concord also said about $9 billion of aid assistance did not reach poor nations last year, but was rather spent in other areas, like refugees at home or on debt relief.

But the aid report was not all bleak. Countries like Britain and Sweden are maintaining or increasing their development assistance. So is struggling Ireland.

"Ireland was hit heavily by the financial crisis. But even with the financial crisis, they are trying to provide as much aid as they can," said Sládková.

European Commission spokeswoman Catherine Ray said the EU's executive arm agreed member states should increase their assistance. "In times of crisis, the EU should not forget about the poorest in the world. It's very important that the EU member states increase their aid budget as they promised to do every year," said Ray.

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