Richard North, 03/03/2006  

Anyone who followed the Asian Tsunami crisis and its aftermath will recall the impotence of the EU and other transnational organisations, compared with the swift response of the United States, Australia, Japan and other nations who quickly organised themselves into a "core group" to bring aid. If there was any lesson to learn, therefore, it was that national governments were the most effective deliverers of humanitarian aid.

The same applies to routine development aid, not least as the EU’s aid-delivery organisation, ECHO has become a by-word for fraud and inefficiency rivalled only by UN aid organisations.

Amazingly, though, this does not stop either organisation calling for more funds and greater roles in the delivery of aid, the latest pitch coming from EU aid commissioner Louis Michel.

According to Reuters, Michel is now suggesting that the EU’s 25 member states should pool their aid resources, vesting control of the funds in the EU, "to make their assistance go further and give the EU a greater voice in the world."

The EU calls itself the biggest aid donor in the world, with EU figures showing its countries provided a total $43.3 billion in 2004, although it is the member states rather than the EU itself which provides the aid. But that is not good enough for Michel. He wants to “co-ordinate” the money, and use it to expand the EU's influence as a donor.

However, this is from the commission that is seriously tarnished - unable to get its legislative programme through, weak and hesitant on the "Cartoon Wars" and slow to respond on the current "take-over" rebellion.

Thus, member states are already expressing doubts about the EU ambitions, with one diplomat saying that they will want to make sure that the move will not allow the commission to accrue greater powers in dispensing aid. Nor with they permit it to interfere with individual member states co-operating with other (non-EU international donors.)

You have to give it to the commission, though. When it comes to self-promotion, they do keep trying.


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