European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday pledged more humanitarian aid for Afghanistan while calling on the international community to help resettle refugees.
Von der Leyen’s remarks outlined the EU’s thinking on the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan a week after Taliban militants captured the country amid a drawdown of allied western troops. The upheaval is expected to generate increased migration out of Afghanistan. And it has pushed western countries to reconsider their financial assistance to the country.
Speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, von der Leyen said the Commission would provide funds to EU countries that resettle Afghan refugees. Indeed, Von der Leyen was in Spain to visit a facility housing evacuated Afghans who had worked for the EU.
But she also stressed the need for other non-EU countries to assist and described plans to first place Afghan refugees outside of the bloc. Von der Leyen said she would raise the issue next week at a meeting of leaders from the G7 group of wealthy nations, which includes the United States, Canada and Britain.
Migration is a “thorny” and “difficult” topic in the EU, Michel said, pointing to “partnerships” with non-EU countries as part of the solution to migration from Afghanistan.
Von der Leyen said refugees should have “legal and safe routes globally, organized by us, the international community.”
On Afghanistan aid, von der Leyen offered two pledges.
First, she said the Commission will soon propose a boost to its humanitarian aid budget for the country. Currently, von der Leyen said, the Commission has earmarked €57 million for 2021, but “we have to increase that.”
Second, von der Leyen vowed that EU development money earmarked for Afghanistan — a figure she put at €1 billion over the next seven years — will now come with strict human rights clauses, given the Taliban’s control of the country.
Von der Leyen noted that despite the Taliban’s rhetorical nods to inclusivity, there have already been numerous reports of oppression targeting women, revenge killings and abductions.
“Not a single euro can go to a regime … that denies women and girls their full freedom and rights to education and careers,” she said.
“The situation is still very unclear and very unpredictable,” she added. “We will measure [the Taliban] above all by their deeds and their actions.”