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European Community Development Council

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will make a statement concerning the outcome of the EEC Development Council which met on 28th November.

The Council made valuable progress on questions on which it has failed to agree in the past. Firstly, we were finally able to agree on the 1977 programme of aid to developing countries which are not associated with the Community through the Lomé Convention or Mediterranean agreements. We also discussed broad guidelines for the 1978 programme, and largely agreed that in outline. It was also agreed in principle that a regulation which could govern aid to non-associates on a more lasting basis should be introduced. There will be discussion at official level of the details before the next meeting of the Council, but I am hopeful, in the light of what took place on Monday, that past differences between Governments about the principle and modalities of aid to non-associates are now mainly resolved. It has taken a long time, but real progress was made.The amount to be devoted to such a programme in 1978 and thereafter is still, however, a point at issue. The increase proposed for 1978 is, in the opinion of the United Kingdom Government, not large enough.We also decided the main principles to govern the Community's contributions to the special action programme. The programme was agreed in the CIEC Conference as a means of bringing fast-disbursing aid to bear on the problems of those developing countries which are most severely affected by the present economic situation. The Community's share of ․385 million out of a total ․1 billion special action will be channelled through the International Development Association and disbursed by them in the light of broad guidelines which we agreed on Monday. This again is a great step forward, since previously this very necessary measure of aid was being held up by lack of agreement on the way it should be administered.There was discussion of a Belgian proposal that the members of the Community should do more to co-ordinate their aid programmes with one another, and also with the Commission. This is a desirable development, and we were all agreed that informal discussions to this end should take place in whatever way seemed most convenient. I myself have recently had discussions with my German and Belgian colleagues, and have also been in contact with my Dutch and Danish colleagues. I hope to arrange further discussions of this kind. In particular, I have suggested to M. Deniau, my opposite number in Paris, that he should come here for such a discussion.We were not able to complete discussion of Community policies over food aid to the developing countries; much of the detail of this will have to be discussed later. All but one delegation did, however, agree that a total of 150,000 tonnes of dried skimmed milk should be made available to developing countries in 1978, in view of the nutritional and developmental benefits. I hope that this matter will be satisfactorily resolved shortly. I expect that a substantial part of this dried skimmed milk will go to the extremely promising Operation Flood in India, which is transforming the prospects of millions of Indian farmers.All in all, therefore, the Council has made very considerable progress on a number of points which in the past have caused considerable dissent and led to lengthy discussion without agreement.