EU to support Arab spring with more aid linked to democracy

Arab World Materials 24 May 2011 19:48 (UTC +04:00)

The European Union should support the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East with a 22-per-cent increase in aid for neighbouring countries, linking it to progress on democratisation, the head of the EU's executive said Tuesday, dpa reported

The proposals are to be unveiled ahead of Thursday and Friday's summit of the Group of 8 industrialised countries (G8) in Deauville, France, where aid for the Arab revolutions is set to top the agenda.

In the wake of the democratic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the EU has acknowledged that it had been too indulgent towards autocratic leaders in the region for the sake of stability, and has pledged to revise its strategy.

"One of the lessons learnt over the last years is that we need to push harder for political reforms and human rights, and reward those partners who implement them," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.

He was speaking ahead of Wednesday's publication of a policy paper on a new EU neighbourhood policy, which is set to call for adding 1.24 billion euros (1.75 billion dollars) to the 5.7 billion euros already budgeted for over 2011-2013.

The funds would come on top of the extra loans promised to North African countries by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the commission says in the document, seen by the German Press Agency dpa.

EU aid should be linked to "a limited number" of priorities, "more precise benchmarks and a clearer sequencing of actions."

"A stronger link between the outcomes ... (and) levels of financial support will be developed over time," the paper adds. The commission paper, which also concerns the EU's eastern neighbours such as Ukraine and Georgia, proposes setting up a European Endowment for Democracy to support political parties, non-governmental organizations and trade unions.

In addition, it pledges to boost growth in neighbouring countries with free-trade agreements, by promoting investment and access to credit fo enterprises and by granting limited access to the EU's borders in return for cooperation on curbing irregular migration