Europe offers one billion euros to help poor countries fight with food crisis

The European Union on Friday proposed a EUR 1 billion (US$1.6 billion) two-year emergency fund to help poor countries cope with the global food crisis.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the fund will aim to help mostly African nations and stabilize supply markets. The fund has been put together from cash that has gone unspent in this year's EU farm budget.

"The impact of high food prices is particularly severe for the world's poorest populations," Barroso said in a statement. He said that if European nations did not step in and help, United Nations goals to halve world poverty would be put at risk and it would "exacerbate tensions" between countries in Africa over resources.

EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said the fund, if approved by EU governments and the European Parliament, would provide urgent funding to U.N. aid agencies like the World Food Program and to the international Red Cross to boost the supply of fertilizer and seeds to increase the planting of crops over the next two years.

The EU Commission will only give out cash to countries that are found to be the most reliant on food imports and have been hardest hit by food price inflation.

Laitenberger appealed to EU governments and lawmakers to ensure approval by November, so the aid can get to the poorest countries as soon as possible.

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