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Europe

Germany, Italy Block Aid for Africa Initiative

Germany has been accused along with Italy of trying to block Britain's plans to tackle poverty in Africa, according to a report published in the British press on Sunday.

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The EU will try to set new targets for aid to Africa despite opposition

According to The Observer newspaper, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's initiative to eradicate debt and poverty on the African continent is in danger due to the refusal of Germany and Italy to increase aid packages ahead of the vital G8 talks.

Both the German and Italian governments are accused of stone-walling over an extra 21.8 billion euros ($27.4 billion) in aid, which would alleviate poverty for around 50 percent of the world's poor, due to the unwillingness of the two countries to back the ambitious upgrade in spending. The new aid targets are part of an agenda being discussed by European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday.

The news that Germany and Italy, two of Britain's European allies in the G8, are resisting calls to contribute to the new targets has put the brakes on Blair's plan to secure an historic deal for Africa before his expected stepping-down sometime in this his third and touted final term in office.

The revelation that the two European forces are unwilling to get on board with Blair's project will do nothing to help in the struggle to get the most financially powerful partner, the United States, involved in the new initiative to alleviate Africa's crippling debt and double the continent's aid package.

Increased contributions could mean billions for aid

Liberia: Nahrungsmittel, Mann mit Lebensmittel

The new aid targets for 2010 project that each member state would be required to increase the amount paid from 0.33 percent of gross national income to an average of 0.56 percent.

This, according to European Commission figures, would mean an increase of 20 billion euros on current levels. Anti-poverty campaigners would prefer to see an increase to 0.7 per cent, a figure agreed by European countries in 1970 but still to be introduced.

The British government is already facing a tough task to persuade US President George W. Bush to sign up and a further sign of division within the European Union will do nothing to help the situation, officials fear.

According to campaigners for debt relief and the fight against poverty in Africa, the German and Italian stance in the run-up to the July summit of the eight most influential industrialized countries in Gleneagles, Scotland, may mean a unique opportunity to help Africa is lost for ever.

United Europe would have power to persuade US

Treffen Bush und Blair in Belfast, Irland

Only with a united EU front can Blair expect to persuade Bush to help Africa. If Europe can deliver on an improved aid deal, the prime minister will command the political and moral authority to pressure less-than-convinced G8 countries -- namely the US, Canada and Japan -- that the initiative can work. Blair has a powerful ally in French President Jacques Chirac and has been boosted by the support of the Russian Federation.

But the major stumbling block to the united European effort appears to be of Berlin origin. Observers believe that Italy might be climbing down from threats to also block a deal and growing pressure may sway the decision before the summit in July.

Domestic woes may spell disaster for Africa

Gerhard Schröder im Bundestag China

However, Germany claims it is currently more preoccupied with domestic economic problems to expend much energy and cash in Blair's project for Africa.

"If Germany and the others block the deal, hundreds of millions of poor women, children and men will pay the price," Anna Collins, EU policy adviser at Oxfam, told The Observer. "The EU faces a critical decision this week. A strong decision on aid increases is the key to success in the fight to make poverty history in 2005."

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