EU to give Pakistan over 100 million euros in aid (Lead)

June 17th, 2009 - 11:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez Musharraf Brussels, June 17 (DPA) The European Union (EU) is to give Pakistan over 100 million euros in aid, more than half of it for victims of the recent fighting in the Swat Valley, officials said Wednesday at the first EU-Pakistan summit in Brussels.
“We welcome Pakistan’s determination to confront militants in North West Frontier Province, and we are aware of the enormous suffering of the civilian population,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after talks with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who chaired the summit as the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, called it “historic” and a “recognition of developments in Pakistan” since the fall of former president and military leader Pervez Musharraf.

Zardari, who had said before the meeting that he wanted “trade, not aid,” welcomed the donation and called the invitation to the summit a “positive step and an assurance that no dictator will ever be welcomed in the halls of the EU.”

And he said that he was “very satisfied” with a promise from the EU to consider his country for inclusion in a preferential trade scheme from 2012, and to think about negotiating a free-trade agreement at an unspecified future point.

Barroso said that the EU’s goal was to “gradually build up the trade relationship.” Some 80 per cent of Pakistani goods are currently covered by EU duty-free schemes or preferential tariffs, but the country needs to diversify its economy, he said.

Officials from the European Commission, the EU’s executive, said that the aid decision was intended to “help the most vulnerable” among the hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by fighting between government and Taliban-linked forces in the Swat Valley.

Barroso and Klaus both praised Zardari’s “determination” to crack down on Islamist militants in his country.

“I was impressed by his commitment and engagement in this matter, not only to make Pakistan a democratic country, but also to do everything to avoid Pakistan being a source of conflict and terrorism for the rest of the world,” Barroso said.

In total, the commission is sending 72 million euros in aid, together with some 50 million euros diverted from other projects to help on longer-term issues such as education, officials said.

The EU has already pledged 7 million euros. It is set to send another 20 million immediately, and will then release a final 45 million from the bloc’s emergency reserve.

The money will be used both to support refugees from the fighting within Pakistan with food, water and shelter, and to help them rebuild their shattered homes, Barroso said.

The EU will also focus on long-term issues of good governance and education, EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

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