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Daily Mail asks “why on earth the EU gives millions in aid ?”. Here’s why: to save lives, keep peace, cut illegal immigration and create new markets

Sir,

The article by Ian Birrell on EU aid (8 March) does not paint a fair picture.

Many of the accusations are from a year-old Open Europe report which the European Commission has comprehensively refuted (see http://bit.ly/AEAQww)

It is not the case that 85p in every £1 spent goes to “middle income countries”. 64% of EU development funds  – which total around £21.5 billion annually – go to countries classified by the UN as least developed. This is set to increase.

But almost half of the 1.6 billion people living in absolute poverty live in countries – like India – classified as “middle income” Aid there still saves lives, often children’s. The Commission has proposed that from 2014 help for India be more targeted on partnerships in areas like fighting disease and hopes that Member States will support this.

Administration costs average 5.4% which compares favourably with national aid.

27 countries acting together to provide aid at EU level can save over £4 billion in economies of scale annually.
Over the last 10 years, auditors have found no evidence of major or systematic diversion of EU funds into corruption or fraud.
The European Commission is ranked – including by the UK government – among the world’s top development and humanitarian aid donors.
The support given to European neighbour countries has a different purpose than aid for developing countries.
Funds for Iceland are limited to about £25 million over three years and help Iceland reach EU standards – for example, financial reform to prevent any future Icelandic economic crisis damaging the UK.

The EU also has an interest in promoting stability and fighting poverty. For example, the prospect of joining the EU and financial support for that has helped bring lasting peace to the Western Balkans and cut the flow of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Such investment also increases markets for EU businesses.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK