EU announces 1bn euro aid package for Afghanistan

Published October 12, 2021
In this file photo, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on "The State of the European Union" at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech during a debate on "The State of the European Union" at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. — Reuters/File

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday pledged a one billion euro aid package for Afghanistan “to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse”, the bloc's chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

The money adds 250 million euros to a 300m euro sum the EU previously announced for urgent humanitarian needs, with the remainder going to Afghanistan's neighbouring countries taking in Afghans fleeing Taliban rule, a statement said.

Von der Leyen made the pledge at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Italy, dedicated to discussing the humanitarian and security situation in Afghanistan.

Her statement stressed that the EU funds are “direct support” for Afghans and would be channelled to international organisations working on the ground, not to the Taliban's interim government which Brussels does not recognise.

Meanwhile, EU development aid — different from humanitarian aid — remains frozen.

“We must do all we can to avert a major humanitarian and socioeconomic collapse in Afghanistan. We need to do it fast,” von der Leyen said, observing that winter was approaching.

“We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights. So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban's actions,” she said.

EU countries are wary at the prospect of a surge of Afghan asylum seekers trying to enter the bloc, as happened in 2015 with Syrians fleeing their war.

Brussels' calculation is that donating money to help stabilise Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and help out countries between it and Europe could stem any flow.

Von der Leyen has said EU countries — especially those that participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's mission that hastily decamped in August as the Taliban swept to power — have a “moral duty” to help Afghans.

The one billion euro aid package announced will boost spending in the health sector in Afghanistan. In the neighbouring countries, it will go to help with migration management and promote cooperation in fighting terrorism, crime and migrant smuggling.

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