PM: Cut aid for repressive states


Prime Minister David Cameron arrives in Doha, Qatar

David Cameron is pressing for Middle East countries that fail to reform to be stripped of hundreds of millions of pounds of EU aid.

As the Prime Minister prepared for talks in Qatar on the latest leg of his tour of Gulf states, he sent a senior official to Brussels for discussions over the future of the £1.5 billion a year project.

Around £200 million a year of British taxpayers’ cash goes to an EU project to promote better governance in the region.

But a senior official travelling with Mr Cameron said Britain believed the scheme had failed and that the EU must “turn off the tap” on states that do not meet their side of the bargain.

The premier has used his visits to push the case for democratic reforms in the region in the wake of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and continuing rebellion in Libya and elsewhere.

Egypt, which Mr Cameron visited on Monday 10 days after Hosni Mubarak’s regime was ousted by mass protests, receives one of the biggest shares of the £1.5 billion a year Neighbourhood Policy.

But while it had introduced EU standards on toys and vehicles and created a consumer protection agency as part of the deal, it had failed to lift a 30-year emergency law and done “very little” to curb the use of torture, the official told reporters.

Libya, where demonstrations against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi have been brutally repressed, Tunisia, which threw out its president, Morocco, Algeria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria also benefit.

But the call for curbs to the cash also raised questions about the future EU support for the Palestinian Authority which is highly dependent on such outside help. The official did not rule out an impact on the impoverished area but said every case would have to be examined on its merits.

Mr Cameron set out his determination to reduce the payments to fellow heads of state at a recent EU summit and in talks at Downing Street last week with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

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