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European Parliament Defends Aid

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“If we don’t have the money, people die. Member states must realize that sound financing is not only morally proper but that it is in their own interest to bring down the flames,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the humanitarian aid chief of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, in a powerful statement against slashing the bloc’s humanitarian aid budget.

The European Parliament is strongly opposing proposed cuts to the European Union’s humanitarian aid budget in a time where many member states are struggling to finance their own domestic crises. The Parliament will negotiate the 2014 and 2015 budgets in October and November with the European Council. Last week, the Committee on Development held several meetings to discuss the crises in Gaza, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

The chairwoman of the Committee on Development, British MEP Linda McAvan, encouraged member states to muster up the 250 million euros necessary to finance humanitarian aid this year, calling on the European Council to demonstrate a true commitment to aid when planning the budget.

“We are in a critical situation. There is a growing backlog on outstanding payments,” said Austrian member of the European Parliament, Paul Rübig, after hearing proposals by member states to slash the aid budget in a committee meeting. “It is unacceptable if the EU cannot pay its bills on time, it would diminish Europe’s stature in the world.”

The Parliament has lamented the red tape stretched out by the E.U. that stops humanitarian aid from reaching its destination in a timely manner, effectively diminishing the impact of the money.

“We need to make our budgetary procedure simpler and faster,” said Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, during a debate on the E.U.’s handling of international crises. Brok has spoken out on the imperative nature of a strong E.U. foreign policy to bring stability and mitigate crises on the continent. “Currently, there is too much bureaucracy, and money given too late for humanitarian actions is wasted money.”

There are many political consequences if the proposed budget cuts are approved. Many struggling countries could potentially fail to reach targets set by the International Monetary Fund without the budget support they receive from the European Union. Georgieva has remarked on the “belt of instability” that surrounds Europe, including Ukraine, Gaza and Ebola-ridden West Africa, stating that juggling such complex crises has been a daunting task for the continent.

“Our member states are at their best when there is a clear purpose, then they mobilize well. But the E.U. is not good at dealing with multiple crises or with forgotten crises that have fallen off the media spotlight. Unfortunately, needs are going up in a world of finite resources,” said Georgieva.

The Committee on Development has also had discussions regarding the development agenda for the near future. MEPs from several nations emphasized that the agenda would need to include or strengthen issues like environmental sustainability, gender equality, rule of law and agriculture.

– Annie Jung

Sources: Public Finance International, Devex, European Parliament
Photo: Flickr