EU's 'Barroso billion' for Africa faces snag

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso’s plan to grant €1-billion ($1,26-billion) in aid for African farmers has run into trouble over financing, EU officials said on Friday.

Barroso proposed in July to use unspent European Union farm funds on a programme to buy seed and fertiliser for Africa in 2008 and 2009, helping to address what was then perceived as a global food crisis.

“But it turns out that, unlike in previous years, there are hardly any unused farm funds,” a commission official said.

The official said the bloc’s governments and the European Parliament may try to find other sources of financing the fund in negotiations on the European Union’s 2009 budget.

But a Parliament official said many governments have become reluctant to foot the bill as they scramble for funds to cope with the global economic crisis.

“Even if there are some unused farm funds, many member states would rather have them back than spend them on the Africa fund,” the official said.

The official pointed out that since July costs of commodities have fallen, helping to stop food price increases, while the credit crunch has turned into an unprecedented financial crisis that has left governments with little cash. - Reuters



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