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Learning English - Words in the News
25 May, 2005 - Published 14:43 GMT
EU to increase aid spending
aid worker

European Union Development ministers have agreed to increase aid spending, to more than nought point five per cent of national income in five years time and to nought point seven per cent in 2015. This report from Andrew Walker:

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If the European Union implements the agreement in full, it would fulfil a long standing United Nations target - that the rich countries should spend nought point seven per cent of their national income on development aid. Currently only four EU countries meet the target - Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg as well as one non-EU country, Norway.

For the EU as a whole, the current level is about half the target. The agreement in Brussels would cut the shortfall in half by 2010 and eliminate it altogether five years later.

However three countries - Germany, Italy and Portugal - issued their own statements, pointing out the difficult situation of their government finances, perhaps an early warning that they might have difficulty finding the extra money while complying with EU rules which limit government borrowing.

Aid and development are important themes in international politics this year. They will be on the agenda at the summit in July of the G8 major powers, which includes the US and Japan as well as the big EU countries. The host, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, wants the summit to agree a large increase in aid and debt relief for Africa. Japan and the US are currently far behind the UN aid target.

In September, there will be a United Nations Summit, where aid, debt and poverty reduction will also be leading issues. The underlying objective is to achieve a number of targets known as the millennium development goals for reducing poverty and related problems.

Andrew Walker, BBC

Listen to the words

puts into practice (something that has been agreed formally)

fulfil a long standing United Nations target
to reach an goal (a final place or number, etc.) set by the United Nations long time ago

cut the shortfall
if there's a shortfall, there is not enough of something, for example money; if you cut the shortfall, you do something to improve the situation

eliminate it altogether
get rid of something completely

have difficulty finding
have problems getting or committing to something

while complying
at the same time as obeying (a rule or an order)

be on the agenda
be one of the topics to be discussed during a meeting

debt relief
help with money a person (or in this case a country) owes another person or country

leading issues
main problems

underlying objective
an aim that is important but not clearly stated

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