EU Commission under fire over food aid cut

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The European Union executive Tuesday came under stinging criticism from France for drastically scaling back food aid for Europe's poor.

The European Commission announced Monday it was reducing a food distribution programme for the 27-nation bloc's deprived from 500 million euros to 113 million euros in 2012.

Charities say the reduction could deprive at least two million Europeans of needed food aid.

"At a time of crises across Europe, noone would understand the commission being unable to fund a programme destined to the most fragile of our compatriots," said France's European Affairs minister Laurent Wauquiez at talks with EU counterparts.

The commission said it had been forced to slash the programme following a decision by the European Court of Justice in April that food covered by the scheme must come from available EU public stocks.

In 2012, this would amount to 162,000 tonnes of cereals and 54,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder, the commission said.

An estimated 43 million people in the EU are threatened by food poverty, meaning that they cannot afford a proper meal every second day, according to commission figures.

Germany, backed by Sweden, had challenged the legality of the scheme before Europe's top court, arguing that the half-billion-euro aid was not in line with the common agricultural policy and the principles of the World Trade Organization.

© 2011 AFP

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