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EU to provide 20 billion euros for Africa and Latin America to fight coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will provide more than 20 billion euros for countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Balkans to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the EU's top diplomat said on Wednesday, as aid groups pressure rich countries to help.

While the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies have pledged to inject huge sums into the global economy, aid charities including Oxfam and Caritas say the world's poorest countries also need emergency support.

"The global pandemic can only be solved globally, it will not be defeated anywhere until it has been defeated everywhere," Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, said after a video conference with EU foreign and development ministers.

Most of the money is being reallocated from other, less urgent EU foreign aid schemes in the EU's common budget, but Borrell said the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Commission and EU governments were working together to maximise EU funding.

Borrell said more than 5 billion euros in loans from the European Investment Bank will be made available more quickly and that no country would see less development aid.

"This is a first step in the right direction but it needs to be complemented with strong and concrete measures," said Caritas Europa's secretary general, Maria Nyman. Oxfam has also called for international action to shore-up public health systems while making testing free for all.

In a separate statement, the European Commission said the money would go to immediate emergency response, medical research, healthcare equipment and longer-term budget support.

Borrell also said the European Union supported a call this week by charities for G20 governments, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to cancel debt payments to help the world's poorest countries through the crisis.


(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)