Brussels, 1 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Chris Patten, the European Union's external relations commissioner, today said the European Commission is prepared to pledge 200 million euros for the reconstruction of Iraq in 2004.
Patten said the amount roughly corresponds to what the EU already spends in Afghanistan.
"I think it's a realistic amount, especially given our budgetary constraints," he said. "If you compare what we're doing annually in Afghanistan, taking account of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, with what we're doing in Iraq -- you can add 100 million [euros] in humanitarian assistance to what we're proposing for reconstruction -- the figures are pretty well identical."
In comparison, Patten said, the EU is spending a little more than 250 million euros in the Palestinian territories.
Additional contributions are expected from individual EU member states at a donor conference in Madrid at the end of this month.
Patten said he expects the EU -- both the commission and individual member states -- to draw up one common pledge. He could not, however, put a figure on expected contributions from member states. Here, Patten simply noted that he hopes all member states will contribute.
He said the absence of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq by the time of the Madrid conference will not affect the EU's pledge.
Patten said the efficacy of the donations will depend on improvements in the security situation in Iraq, a commitment by the coalition to establish a sovereign Iraqi government, and the creation of a "transparent and multinational" framework for reconstruction in the country.
He strongly hinted the EU wants to see a sovereign government in place in Iraq before discussing aid going beyond the end of 2004.
Patten said the EU money will have to go into an independent trust fund run by the United Nations and the World Bank. The spending will be coordinated with the coalition-run Iraqi Development Fund, but the EU fund will remain "separate and transparent."
This, Patten said, should not be taken to imply that the EU distrusts the way the U.S.-led coalition is managing its reconstruction funds. Rather, he noted, it is natural that donors would want to retain control over how their money is spent.
"It's not a criticism of how the coalition operates, but if we're putting money through an international fund, I'm not in a position in which I have to answer questions on the procurement policies of the [coalition-run] development fund for Iraq," he said.
A commission press release today said priorities for EU assistance will include support in areas such as institution building, creating a social safety net, health, water and sanitation, educational improvements, job creation, as well as the promotion of human rights and democracy.