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Europe

Germany Criticized As AIDS Donor Conference Opens

Prior to the start of an AIDS donor conference in Paris Wednesday, the German government is facing criticism that it won't contribute the funds needed to match America's $1 billion pledge to the Global AIDS Fund.

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The U.S. has pledged $1 billion to the U.N. global aids fund this year, the EU wants to match it.

Pressured by the Bush administration at the annual G8 Summit in Evian this year, Europe's leaders pledged to donate 1 billion euros to the U.N. aids-fighting fund this year.

The amount is supposed to match the $1 billion promised to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria by U.S. President George W. Bush this year, part of his government's ambitious $15 billion package to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. But the European Union's contribution remains heavily debated on the eve of the Fund's annual donor conference in Paris.

At an EU summit in Thessaloniki at the beginning of the month, the 15-member body was unable to unanimously approve the amount, pledged by French President Jacques Chirac. Germany and the Netherlands, countries that are facing shrinking budgets, said they would be hard-pressed to find the money to back their pledge.

Germany already spends around €300 million a year on fighting AIDS. Of that amount in 2004, €38 million will go to the Global Fund. Following the government's hesitation in Thessaloniki, Germany's development minister quickly upped her contribution amid growing criticism.

Berlin criticized by AIDS groups

Germany has pledged €300 million to the Fund until 2007, €100 million more than initially planned. After the €38 million slated for next year, Berlin will gradually increase its Fund contribution for the next three years. The government has so far contributed €50 million to the Fund.

"We are taking our responsibility in fighting AIDS seriously," Minister for Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said earlier this month.

But whether the €1 billion EU pledge will become reality, depends on Germany contributing more, according to non-profit organizations involved in combating AIDS. On Tuesday, Doctors Without Borders asked the German government to contribute €100 million to the Fund this year.

Though appreciative of Wieczorek-Zeul's recent increase, the international organization said that "without the 1 billion euro from the EU (we're) concerned the Global Fund won't be functional anymore."

Tension between EU, U.S. persists

Tension between the United States and the European Union remains. During President George W. Bush's recent tour through Africa, EU commission members privately complained that America's public pledge was one thing, it's actual contribution something else.

The EU is quick to point out that it is donating $2.56 billion to the Fund for the period of 2003-2008. America, in that same time period, is only contributing $1.65 billion.

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