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EU says will speed aid to poor countries

  The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled plans to accelerate aid to developing countries hit hard by the economic crisis, warning that failure to act could pose a threat to global stability.

The executive arm of the EU said it was bringing forward to 2009 nearly €4.3 billion ($5.82 billion) of previously earmarked funds to help poor countries fight a recession that has staunched credit flows, curtailed investment and sent a number of local currencies into a tailspin.

“This multi-faceted crisis poses a serious threat to global stability,” the Commission said in a statement. The move does not entail adding existing aid to funds already set aside by the EU.

Instead the Commission will “front-load”, or accelerate payment of €3 billion, or 72% of budget support to African, Pacific and Caribbean (ACP) nations and will direct at least €500 million to support local welfare spending.

A further €800 million from an existing facility to combat hunger would also be made available this year, it said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, also urged donor nations not to use the recession as an excuse to recant on promises to increase aid especially to countries least responsible for the crisis but among those worst hit by it.

“We are now more than half way to the 2015 deadline for reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals and some of the gains achieved so far risk being forfeited leaving poor countries worse off than before the crisis,” Barroso said.

The Millennium Development Goals were agreed by 189 countries in 2000 and consist of eight targets for reducing poverty by 2015 -- including a goal to halve by then the number of people living on less than $1 a day.

Barroso said the EU was acting on promises made by world leaders during the G20 summit to provide $1.1 trillion in financing to the IMF, with $300 billion to be committed in aid to the poorest countries over the next two years. (Reuters)