-Italy hosts G20 Afghan Summit focuses on Humanitarian crisis
BRUSSLES: The European Union (EU) on Tuesday pledged a one billion Euro aid package for Afghanistan “to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse”, the bloc’s chief Ursula von der Leyen said.
The money adds 250 million Euros to a 300m Euro sum the EU previously announced for urgent humanitarian needs, with the remainder going to Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries taking in Afghans fleeing Taliban rule, a statement said.
Von Der Leyen made the pledge at a virtual G20 summit hosted by Italy, dedicated to discussing the humanitarian and security situation in Afghanistan. Her statement stressed that the EU funds are “direct support” for Afghans and would be channeled to international organizations working on the ground, not to the Taliban’s interim government which Brussels does not recognize.
Meanwhile, EU development aid, different from humanitarian aid, remains frozen. “We must do all we can to avert a major humanitarian and socioeconomic collapse in Afghanistan. We need to do it fast,” Von Der Leyen said, observing that winter was approaching.
“We have been clear about our conditions for any engagement with the Afghan authorities, including on the respect of human rights. So far, the reports speak for themselves. But the Afghan people should not pay the price of the Taliban’s actions,” she said.
EU countries are wary at the prospect of a surge of Afghan asylum seekers trying to enter the bloc, as happened in 2015 with Syrians fleeing their war.
Brussels’ calculation is that donating money to help stabilise Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and help out countries between it and Europe could stem any flow. Von der Leyen has said EU countries, especially those that participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s mission that hastily decamped in August as the Taliban swept to power, have a “moral duty” to help Afghans.
The one billion euro aid package announced will boost spending in the health sector in Afghanistan. In the neighbouring countries, it will go to help with migration management and promote cooperation in fighting terrorism, crime and migrant smuggling.Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has host a special summit of the Group of 20 major economies on Tuesday to discuss Afghanistan, as worries grow about a looming humanitarian disaster following the Taliban’s return to power.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Aug 15, the country, already struggling with drought and severe poverty after decades of war, has seen its economy all but collapse, raising the spectre of an exodus of refugees.
The video conference, which was start at 1pm (1100 GMT), focused on aid needs, concerns over security and ways of guaranteeing safe passage abroad for thousands of Western-allied Afghans still in the country.