Patten outlines key EU priorities after Afghan war

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Series Details Vol.7, No.47, 20.12.01, p2
Publication Date 20/12/2001
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Date: 20/12/01

By David Cronin

EXTERNAL relations Commissioner Chris Patten yesterday identified two key priorities for the EU as the international community prepares to win peace after the war in Afghanistan.

Speaking ahead of a two-day international conference in Brussels starting today (20 December), Patten said work on repairing water courses and rehabilitating agriculture was vital.

Although no decision had yet been made on how much the Commission will allocate to "quick impact" projects in Afghanistan, Patten confirmed that about €80 million was available in the existing budget to provide humanitarian assistance, food and aid.

He said that this week's meeting would not seek pledges of large-scale donations for reconstruction of the country - a donors'conference is due to take place in Tokyo on 21-22 January.

The new interim administration due to take office in Kabul this weekend will be represented at the conference by Finance Minister Hedayat Amin-Arsala.Oxfam's EU spokesman David Earnshaw, who last week returned to Brussels from working in an Afghan refugee camp, said an education and vaccination programme was urgently needed. Belgian officials estimate that Afghanistan will require €5.5 billion in support over the next five years.

Development agencies believe the figure will be higher - de-mining is predicted to cost €2 billion alone.

After meeting Patten yesterday, the chief of the US Agency for International Development Andrew Natsios said the Bush administration was committed to ensuring Afghan women become actively involved in all areas of the country's life, including its government. The female population, he explained, could play an important role in reducing infant mortality. About 25 of Afghan children currently die before their fifth birthdays.

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