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The Killid Group

"To help you, you have to help us"

Written by Killid
Sunday, 04 December 2011 09:14

"To help you, you have to help us" The countdown has begun for the second Bonn conference on Afghanistan. The government will be looking for concrete commitments from the international community including the EU. Ahead of the Dec. 5 meeting Killid's Ghayor Waziri interviewed EU Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas. Asked if EU aid will shrink after the withdrawal of foreign forces, Usackas firmly put the ball in Kabul's court. His answer: aid will be linked to the government's ability to deliver. Excerpts from the interview.

KILLID: What has been achieved with EU aid?
VYGAUDAS USACKAS: I think we are effective. If you look at the outcome of our support in 2001 only 6 percent of Afghans had access to primary health care and now it's more than 60 percent. The Afghan National Police is becoming more professional …
KILLID: How good are the police you have trained?
VU: I cannot judge all 130,000 Afghan police. The 15,000 by EUPOL (EU police) mission have the right qualities necessary to police civilians.
KILLID: Will the EU decrease aid after withdrawal of foreign forces? People are concerned.
VU: We need to change our way of thinking. Afghanistan is not just a recipient of aid. I think it is important that you take ownership and leadership and that's what 2014 is going to be about. It's about giving full sovereignty, giving full leadership to Afghan people.
We also understand that there will be a continued need to support Afghan national security forces beyond 2014. There would also be a need to support building a sound public administration - both in the central level and the level of provinces and district and to have appropriate linkages between them. There is also a great need for justice sector reforms in this country.

'You have to help us'
KILLID: Will the current aid level be decreased?
VU: Well my answer is - with you taking ownership we are going to support you. EU support I hope will remain as much as it is now from the common budget, which is about 200 million euros annually. But it will also depend on how successful you will be. You should understand that we also have our own people and we are going through financial problems.
KILLID: If the situation remains the same, will your aid continue?
VU: I am pretty confident that we will retain our support as we are providing from the common EU budget. I think member states will reduce the budget because foreign troops will withdraw. I think it is also important that we convey a message back to Europe and US that we all need to work for transition building and to retain necessary economic support for Afghanistan. Equally you have to help us. To help you, you have to help us.
KILLID: How can we help?
VU: By taking ownership and moving your country forward.
KILLID: But it needs more aid from EU.
VU: But also you need sometimes to have real drive for reforms, (to) improve governance. Justice sector reform is so important for you, but also for us. We need to have independent judiciary. If you want to get the foreign investment here, to extract the minerals, to generate the revenues for the country which is so much needed, you also need to have a jurisprudence which will be independent and professional since commercial disputes will arise either between commercial partners … or between the government and commercial partners.

Tangible outcomes
KILLID: If we can't bring stability or good government, will the aid decrease?
VU: What I am saying is that we are willing to continue supporting Afghanistan but we also needs to have tangible outcomes.
KILLID: After 2014 how will EU donations be channelled?
VU: Bonn will be a good opportunity to take stock of the mutual commitments and make mutual accountability between Afghanistan and the international community. EU is a serious and reliable partner of Afghanistan. We will be delivering on commitments. Fifty percent of all aid is put in the budget for Afghanistan. That is what we have to do, and we are going to do. EU support this year is 100 percent through trust funds. We will continue to encourage other partners with our example.
Again I come back to governance and rule of law. (If we are) to continue to support Afghan government we need to ensure that our money is spent properly and effectively allocated and implemented. For that we need to have a transparent, accountable and improved governance of Afghanistan and justice sector.
KILLID: What about the other 50 percent aid?
VU: There is an agreement between Afghanistan and the international community that 50 percent of aid should be for budget support and the rest implemented directly through the implementing partners for the benefit of Afghanistan.

Post-2014 pacts
KILLID: Does the EU agree foreign forces need to be withdrawn?
VU: 2014 is a date that was agreed to by the government of Afghanistan and the international community. It's a reality that will happen. We have to put in all efforts to support the development of Afghan national security forces so by the end of 2014 they will be able to meet and tackle the security situation in Afghanistan.
At the same time we all recognise that beyond 2014 because of the situation in the country, because of underdevelopment, someone will need to pay the salaries for the police, continue supporting, training and maintaining your army and the police. I am turning to my people, to 500 million Europeans that have their own financial difficulties and trying to convey to them to continue to do so. We will continue to do so until the time you will generate your own revenues.
I urge the Afghan government to start addressing economic issues; lobby to attract private investors, to help generate revenues which are so important for the future.
KILLID: Does the EU support a strategic treaty between Afghanistan and US?
VU: EU respects the free will of the Afghan government and people and the free will of the US administration; it is up to the United States and Afghanistan to negotiate the strategic agreement. We also expect that the United States and other countries in the region will respect our wish to for an agreement that would be a very ambitious, balanced agreement between 27 EU member states and Afghanistan.
KILLID: EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to talk about a future partnership with Afghanistan.
VU: Yes, it is a demonstration of our long term, mutual commitment to Afghanistan. It will be a complex, very comprehensive agreement which will require very good preparations from both sides. We are starting these preparations only now and we have to get an agreement among all 27 governments to start talks. The agreement will regulate relations between the EU and Afghanistan.
KILLID: Is it also political?
VU: It is political - it will be the first ever, legally binding agreement between Afghanistan and 27 EU member states.

'Not packing and leaving'
KILLID: What is your opinion of the second Bonn conference?
VU: Bonn will be an opportunity to take stock, and a clear demonstration of our long-term commitment. It will also be an opportunity for us to talk about further measures to improve governance, transparency and justice sector which is so critical for Afghanistan. We will also talk about the future elections …
It is important that we move forward with a clear agenda. That we get a message across to the Afghan people that we are not packing and leaving in 2014, we'll remain with you as long as you want us and because we are friends and partners of Afghanistan.
KILLID: It has been 10 years of military and non-military presence of international community in Afghanistan but still violence, fight, instability continues. What is the way of achieving peace in Afghanistan?
VU: It is going to be up to you to achieve peace and stability. You have to take the lead; use the know-how to move forward with our support. In this respect we will be accompanying you.
KILLID: What will be the EU support?
VU: We will support you in developing the Afghan National Police …
KILLID: What is the good way to achieve peace?
VU: We have an agreed roadmap between Afghanistan and EU. The transition is also about government and delivering services. That's why you need justice sector reforms.
KILLID: EU wants to continue the process that the Afghan government started - the  process of negotiation with Taliban, reconciliation and ...?
VU: EU stands behind the Afghan reconciliation … We believe it should be an Afghan-led process … Insurgency should lay down arms, cut ties with Al-Qaeda, and respect the Constitution of Afghanistan.
KILLID: Has the international community won or lost the war in Afghanistan?
VU: I think we are much better off now than in 2001. We have an improved situation of women, free media, universities, girls go to school … EU is a friend and reliable partner.

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