Officials have visited Mali to see how money can best be spent.
The European Union is edging towards releasing €250 million of frozen development aid to Mali to help restore the authority of central government.
Officials from the EU's institutions visited Mali in late January to assess how the aid could be used. One EU official said the aim had been to make it possible for a decision to be made on Tuesday (5 February), when the principal international contact group on Mali met in Brussels. Ahead of the meeting, the Malian parliament also met a critical condition for the funds' release, by approving a roadmap to a new ‘constitutional order'. However, the contact group's meeting finished without an announcement by the EU or by others – including the US, the World Bank and the African Development Bank – that had suspended aid in the wake of a coup last March.
The coup created a power vacuum in the north that was swiftly filled by Tuareg rebels and Islamist groups.
With French and Malian troops now in control of the major cities in the north of the country, the international community's aim is to provide enough security “to allow a political process to resume”, a senior EU official said. “It is going to take years to put Mali back together again, but I hope that it will only take months to have a security environment that would allow that process to begin.”
Mali's interim government said at the conference that it wants to hold elections in July, a date that the senior EU official described as “ambitious”. The restoration of aid is seen as a means of reinforcing the political process, as well as meeting everyday needs.
The EU's envisaged security role is currently limited to training the Malian army. Security ambassadors are expected to agree on Friday (8 February) on the composition of the military training mission, which should be deployed on 12 February. To date, 16 member states have promised to contribute.
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