October 5, 2016
The European Union (EU) is holding a fund-raising conference for the cash-strapped government in Afghanistan, which has to tackle with a host of issues, including rampant militancy in the country.
Leaders from more than 70 countries and 20 international organizations and agencies have gathered in the EU’s de facto capital on Tuesday to take part in the two-day EU-led donors conference, which is titled “The Brussels Conference on Afghanistan: realizing Afghanistan’s economic potential and reinforcing the role of women.”
The EU has said the overall aim of the conference is “generating international support for the Afghan reform process and ensuring continued international political and financial support to bolster Afghanistan’s economic stability, development and state-building processes over the next four years.”
The Afghan government is expecting the international community to allocate an annual four billion dollars to it for programs to rebuild the country, as pledged at the last donors conference in Tokyo in 2012.
Eighty percent of Afghanistan’s budget is financed by international aid.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Wednesday that the EU “will pledge 1.2 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) and we would expect a similar level engagement from our partners.”
The United States in one of the countries attending the conference.
EU officials had warned ahead of the meeting that it was unclear whether the target of four billion dollars would be achieved, with media speculating that the meeting would only drum up three billion dollars annually to keep the government running until 2020.
The US and the EU each currently provide about a third of all international aid to Afghanistan, with Japan being the next most generous donor.
Years of insecurity and conflict since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 have left the country in tatters.
Several international conferences have been held to plan and review ways to end the militancy and insecurity in the country and build a prosperous Afghanistan. However, little has been achieved and the country continues to be plagued by militancy and a shortage of funds.
On the eve of the conference, London-based Amnesty International issued a statement warning that the EU may impose a potential deal similar to the refugee deal the bloc has signed with Ankara.
“It would be inadmissible that any agreement forged in Brussels makes financial assistance for Afghanistan conditional on the Afghan government’s cooperation to accept the mission and return of asylum seekers,” Amnesty says.
Mogherini on Wednesday denied that such a scenario would occur.
However, European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told a news briefing in Brussels on Monday that, “The European Union and Afghanistan reached an important political arrangement yesterday, the so-called Joint Way Forward on migration issues,” adding, there would be further “intense” work to implement the arrangement over the next few days.
While the details of that “arrangement” were not revealed, a leaked EU memo in March had suggested that financial pledges would be made in return for Afghanistan accepting 80,000 asylum seekers deported from EU countries.
Also in March, the EU signed a controversial deal with Turkey based on which Brussels promised billions of dollars in aid to Turkey, among other promises, in return for Greece accepting refugees reaching Greece’s shores via Turkish space.
Just days ago, Turkey’s president complained that despite Turkey’s commitment to the deal, and a stop of refugees entering the EU from the Turkish side, the EU had not paid the money it pledged.