Development NGOs such as Oxfam have largely welcomed an agreement reached by EU budget ministers and MEPs on 21 November to provide €1 billion to the world’s poorest farmers, but urged the EU to address the “structural problems” that fuelled the food crisis.
Under the compromise deal, the EU will pay the €1 billion over three years rather than the two years initially suggested in Barroso’s proposal. The aid will be provided from three sources:
- €420 million will be made available through the Union’s flexibility instrument;
- €240 million will come from the emergency aid reserve, and;
- €240 million from redeployed funds.
The international relief and development agency Oxfam complained that it had taken the EU five months to clinch the deal and urged governments to move quickly to make their pledges a reality. Oxfam hopes the fund will provide “a vital boost to help those hit hardest by the food crisis”.
At the same time, the organisation stated that only two-thirds of the €1 billion pledge was “fresh money”, with the rest coming from the existing budget. Aid agencies voiced fears that EU states would simply divert this “new” money from their existing national development aid budgets due to pressure on their own national finances.
“Such creative accounting would do little to help poor farmers in the developing world,” argued the Irish Times.
Oxfam and others also warned that a new food crisis was “imminent” unless Europe and other rich countries addressed the structural problems fuelling the food crisis, identified as “rigged trade rules, negligence of agriculture investment and wrong biofuels and climate change policies”.
The next free trade and global climate change talks will be the real litmus test, argued Oxfam’s Elise Ford. She urged the EU to “urgently compromise” by increasing agricultural aid at the next Doha talks.
The inter-institutional agreement on the aid package still needs to be formally approved by the European Parliament at its plenary session on 16 December.