EU increases aid to Pakistan

December 8th, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafBrussels, Dec 8 (DPA) The European Union (EU) is increasing its aid to Pakistan to 50 million euros ($63 million) over the next three years, the bloc’s external affairs commissioner, Benita Ferrero- Waldner, said Monday.The money is to be directed at boosting EU programmes in the field of education, trade and farming in Pakistan’s northwest, a tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

“The border area is very important,” Ferrero-Waldner said, noting that educational programmes were particularly important in a destitute part of the country that is also a breeding-ground for terrorists.

The EU has already supported Pakistan to the tune of about 500 million euros since 1976, and the commissioner conceded Monday that fighting corruption and guaranteeing security would be needed to ensure that any fresh money is well spent.

Strengthening Pakistan’s democratic institutions and helping it crack down on terrorism “is also in India’s interest”, she said.

The commissioner also praised Pakistan’s raid on a suspected militant camp, which has led to the arrest of the alleged planner of the Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks, describing Pakistan’s move as “courageous”.

Her comments came as EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss ways of enhancing the bloc’s ties with Pakistan following the end of emergency rule by ex-president Pervez Musharraf and its slow return to full democracy.

Ministers were also expected to call for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism, both within Pakistan and over its borders in Afghanistan and India.

The discussions in Brussels were taking place amid reports that Pakistani insurgents had torched more than 50 trucks carrying supplies for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is also pushing for a free-trade agreement with the EU. But Ferrero-Waldner suggested Monday that no decision would be taken by EU governments until early next year.

Meanwhile, the EU is about to send a ministerial-level group of diplomats to Islamabad with the aim of boosting political dialogue, officials said prior to Monday’s meeting.

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