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Steadfast solidarity in crisis time

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As we all get prepared for the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the latest Eurobarometer’s results are timely.

Today, one week before the summit, we published the results of the Eurobarometer (which is a large public opinion survey conducted in all Member States) on development aid. I do not want to talk about numbers only, but I would like to share with you how I understand the messages sent by you and other fellow Europeans.

The first message cannot be clearer – Europeans support the efforts of helping people in developing countries. 9 out of 10 think this is an important task. More so, the number of Europeans who think that development aid is very important increased from 39% in June 2009 to 45% in 2010. And this happened during the grim environment of economic crisis. I was impressed.

Such results prove that Europeans are generous and responsible, even despite the economic turbulences. This is very encouraging and proves that we can overcome the obstacles in pursuing the development agenda.

Of course, this is not all about rosy picture. When it comes to question related to “hard money”, results are still high while slightly lower than in 2009. This year, the dividing line seems to run between countries that have been hit harder by the crisis and others, rather than between EU12 and EU15. Unsurprisingly, there is less enthusiasm in increasing aid in Estonia, Bulgaria or even Spain, than in Nordic countries.

Personally interesting for me was to see the results of the so called EU12. As a Latvian, I understand that many EU12 countries do not have any historical bonds with developing countries and previous Eurobarometers indicated a gap between EU12 and EU15 in this respect. But this year’s survey, indicates this divide is shrinking and the general support for development is almost equally high in the whole of the EU. The crisis seems to have generated a new type of attitude towards aid.

Despite this point, a vast majority of Europeans (64%) are still calling the EU and the Member States to stick to the “0.7% GNI target”. They want us to deliver. And they understand that it will be more efficient if we join forces and coordinate better. 76% indeed consider that  working together brings added value.

We, European leaders, therefore have a great responsibility on our shoulders. The economic mood in Europe obliges us to be accountable and transparent to our citizens. It pushes us to deliver real value for money and be efficient in our efforts to help developing countries

I also understand these results as a strong mandate to go to the UN Summit in New York with a clear message: as the major global donor, EU will continue to support poorest countries, and will encourage our partners from all over the world to increase efforts as fighting against poverty is a shared responsibility.

You can read summary of the report here: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/10/403&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Press release on the report here: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/1116&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Full report is also available online: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_en.htm#352

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