Brussels - The European Union is set to unblock €250m in
development aid to Mali frozen after a March 2012 coup allowed Islamist
insurgents to seize cities and territory in the north of the desert country.
The aid money gradually will be restored this year, Europe's
development chief Andris Piebalgs told a meeting of EU aid ministers in Dublin
on Tuesday, adding that the EU was satisfied Mali had taken steps towards
restoring democratic government.
"The swift adoption by the Malian authorities of a
transition roadmap to restore democracy and stability has opened the door for
lifting the precautionary measures taken after the coup d'etat of March
2012," Piebalgs said in a statement.
France sent military forces to Mali in January after the
country appealed to Paris for urgent military support to halt advances by
Islamists rebels and defuse the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for
attacks in Europe or northern Africa.
Since the French intervention, Islamist rebels have been
pushed back from the main urban centres of northern Mali into the mountains and
desert, and French leaders have said they hope to withdraw forces in March.
Mali hopes to organise elections on 31 July, Mali's interim
President Dioncounda Traore said in January.
But the country remains unstable. In addition to development
aid, the EU has provided 116 million euros in immediate humanitarian aid to
Mali since the beginning of 2012, to help provide food and shelter to refugees
and to local residents affected by conflict.
In 2012, roughly 150 000 refugees left Mali for the
surrounding countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger.
"We cannot possibly deal with Mali in isolation of the
broader Sahel region," Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva
She said that the flow of refugees to an area that has
already experienced food crisis in 2012, put "enormous pressure" on
an already fragile region.