Aid NGO neutrality 'under threat' from new EU constitution

The EU draft constitution threatens the neutrality and professionalism of humanitarian aid, according to medical relief NGO Merlin.

The charity is concerned that the constitution does not mention neutrality as a fundamental principle of aid agencies' operation. "Should humanitarian aid become integrated with EU foreign policy - or indeed even unintentionally become associated with diplomatic and military processes - this aid would no longer be able to reach beneficiaries during times of conflict," Merlin's response to the proposed constitution states.

Merlin also opposes the establishment of a volunteer-based European Humanitarian Aid Corps, as proposed in the draft treaty.

Chief executive Geoff Prescott said: "Humanitarian aid is meant to save lives and alleviate suffering, not be an expensive white-elephant foreign policy tool. It is imperative that for victims of war, aid should not become enmeshed in politics and undermined by well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers and partisan Eurocrats."

The responses to the draft will be considered by EU member governments at a conference this month. The treaty will come into force after May 2004.

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