EU cheered by Britain's decision not to cut overseas aid

22nd October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Europe on Friday welcomed Britain's decision to exempt overseas aid from its sweeping budget cuts this week, saying it could mark "a turning point" in efforts to eradicate world poverty.

"The crisis is never an excuse for decreasing development aid," said European commissioner for development Andris Piebalgs. "The decision taken by the United Kingdom is a turning point."

Speaking after informal talks between European Union development ministers, Piebalgs said the bloc -- the world's leading donor -- would continue to press members to pay up to 0.7 percent of gross national income to help nations in difficulty, despite aid cuts in Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain.

"Members are moving in this direction," he told a press briefing. "Those that are falling off are getting more and more lonely," he said, and moves such as Britain's amounted to "peer pressure".

The two-day talks in Brussels looked at ways of optimising aid, from budget support to ways of encouraging poor nations to make best use of their resources as well as tapping new sources of funding, such as a proposed international financial transaction tax.

No decisions were made however, a spokesman said.

The exchange aimed to thrash over ideas as the 27-nation bloc's new foreign corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS) headed by Catherine Ashton, takes shape ahead of its formal enactment in December.

© 2010 AFP

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