, BRUSSELS, Jan 8 – The EU was set Friday to step up pressure on the Democratic Republic of Congo after Kinshasa declared the bloc\’s top aid official persona non grata for raising doubts about its use of aid money.
At the European Parliament last month, Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht had questioned whether aid provided to Kinshasa by EU nations was being put to good use as a humanitarian crisis raged in parts of the country.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was set to call in DR Congo\’s ambassador to express the bloc\’s support for De Gucht, the commissioner said on Belgian television.
"What I said at the European Parliament, that\’s the point of view of the European Commission, made in consultation with Catherine Ashton, confirmed today by the (European Commission) president (Jose Manuel) Barroso," he said Thursday evening on VRT television.
De Gucht said the EU would make that known to Congolese officials on Friday, and Ashton would call in the country\’s ambassador next week.
"I think that is an important signal for Congo, whatever the state of my personal relationship with President (Joseph) Kabila," he said, adding he "hadn\’t intended to block aid programmes" which benefit the Congolese population.
On Thursday, DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said: "We note that here is a character who is incapable of having normal, dignified relations with our country.
"Any visit to DR Congo would not be desirable," he said.
"Without wanting to damage our good relations with the EU, we want nothing to do with this character," Mende added.
In Strasbourg on December 16, De Gucht noted that tens of millions of euros are being sent there, but asked: "What is in the end the effectiveness of all this if you don\’t have a proper counterpart in the political arena?"
The EU is a major aid donor to DR Congo, sending some 300 million euros (430 million dollars) since 2003, including around 50 million euros annually in humanitarian assistance in 2008 and last year.
De Gucht announced in late November that he had planned to travel to Goma, and would have used his visit to sign documents activating a number of major aid projects.