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Wednesday, 12 January 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Debt relief for developing countries

  Carlotti (PSE), on behalf of the group. – (FR) The European Union and the international community are preparing to write off some of Iraq’s debts and, at this moment, the debts of the countries ravaged by the tsunami. While I am glad to see this, these are reactions in the heat of the moment, associated with a pressing current situation, and it is the debt problem of the global south as a whole that must be treated with the same urgency and speed, for this disturbing reality with which we are faced is indeed urgent.

The amount of debt repaid by the South in a year far exceeds the annual total of public development aid, and it is the South that is funding the North. Over twenty years, the countries of the South will have already repaid six euros for every euro borrowed and they will still be being asked for another four. If the South is to make progress, its debts must be cut back, and, today, practical responses are only slowly forthcoming. I welcome the United Kingdom’s initiative, it having announced its intention of cancelling its share in the debt incurred by the poorest countries to the World Bank, and I am impatient to see the countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as a whole do likewise. Were they all to follow the British example, 45 million more children would be able to go to school, 140 million people would be able to have access to clean drinking water – provided, of course, that the amount of cancelled debt was added to the current development aid, and provided that the North stopped taking with one hand what it gives with the other.

Right now, it is imperative that a global, fair and sustainable solution be found to the problem of debt, and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament is persuaded that it is the European Union and its Member States that can take the initiative in this. They can do this by writing off all the poorest countries’ debts, by taking measures to alleviate the position of threshold countries, by no longer imposing ‘structural adjustments’ as conditions and, of course, as has been said, we have to make this part of an all-round aid policy and, with all haste, seek new sources of finance.

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