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Afghanistan: Outgoing EU Envoy Klaiber Optimistic About Performance Of Interim Government

The European Union's special envoy to Afghanistan, Klaus-Peter Klaiber, has completed his six-month mission in the country and is due to report this week to the European Union's Council of Ministers in Brussels. Klaiber's recommendations will impact future financing that the EU offers to Afghanistan for reconstruction and development projects. RFE/RL spoke with Klaiber in Kabul this week about what he will tell the EU ministers.

Kabul, 25 June 2002 (RFE/RL) -- At the conclusion of his six-month mission in Afghanistan, the European Union's special representative, Klaus-Peter Klaiber, said the Afghan government should receive all of the funds the EU has promised for reconstruction and development projects this year.

Klaiber's assessment of the work by Afghanistan's interim administration is an important factor in determining whether hundreds of millions of dollars in aid is dispersed for development projects across the country.

That's because the EU development assistance is linked to progress on implementing the conditions of the Bonn accords.

"This administration, up to [the final day of the Afghan interim administration's tenure on 22 June], has been faithful to the commitments it has undergone in the Bonn agreement of December last year. And that is a very positive sign," Klaiber said.

Klaiber said he will submit a positive report on Thursday to EU ministers in Brussels about the first six months of work by the post-Taliban administration in Kabul. "I will be in Brussels at the end of this week to report to the ministers that I think we are well advised to continue our close cooperation with the country because Afghanistan has met its commitment to the Bonn agreement. I think it is up to the international community to meet its commitments, as well. And I think with regards to the [European] Commission and also the individual member countries, I have no doubt that they will do so," Klaiber said.

At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that the EU, as well as its individual member countries, have promised to send to Afghanistan. "The European Union has pledged to provide $500 million worth of assistance in 2002 alone. The money that comes from the European Commission is about $200 million. The remaining $300 million have been pledged individually by member countries France, Germany, England, and others," Klaiber said.

So far, about half of the $200 million promised by Brussels for this year has been dispersed for projects in Afghanistan. Klaiber said that it is a good level at mid-point in the year, considering the difficulties initially faced by EU assessment teams. "We have had, at the beginning, considerable problems in moving forward with the assistance projects -- development projects -- as far as the European Union is concerned. And this was particularly due to the fact that in the first months of the interim administration, there was no security, especially around the country. My staff could not go and see some of the projects we intended to assist in. And that played a major role in the decision-making process for assistance outside of Kabul to be promulgated quickly," Klaiber said.

But Klaiber said the current security situation in much of Afghanistan has improved greatly since January and that this bodes well for future EU aid disbursements. "Now things have changed. Not only in Kabul, but also in the country as well. People can travel freely. I have no problem sending my staff to some other parts of the country. And that is huge progress compared to the beginning of the year," Klaiber said.

Klaiber suggested that the positive report he will present in Brussels this week should contribute to the approval of a series of infrastructure and social projects that are close to being signed. "There are some programs for the [regional] areas. For example, the European Commission is looking into financing the reconstruction of the road [from Kabul] to Jalalabad, at least a major part of the funds needed for that road. There is some $10 million under consideration and almost ready for signature for Kabul water and electricity. There are $30 million under negotiation at the moment for health, and others for civil-society [and] social protections," Klaiber said.

However, the outgoing EU representative to Afghanistan warned that funding in some regions could be threatened if the security situation deteriorates under the newly appointed Transitional Authority.

In particular, he singled out the northern parts of the country near the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where there has been a series of violent attacks against foreign aid workers. Klaiber said he will present the EU ministers in Brussels with a list of seven violent incidents that have occurred since the beginning of this month in the north. Each of the incidents has caused concern among international donors. He said the seven incidents include the gang rape of a female aid worker from a nongovernmental organization by Afghan fighters in the north of the country.

But he said that he does not expect possible aid cuts for the north to impact the overall amount of funds dispersed for projects in Afghanistan this year. "We are very confident as far as the European Commission is concerned that all the money which has been pledged will also be spent this year," Klaiber said.

Klaiber's post as the special representative of the EU in Afghanistan is to be filled by Francesc Vendrell. The 62-year-old Spanish diplomat had served as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for Afghanistan from 2000 to the beginning of this year. Vendrell is expected to arrive in Kabul next month.