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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU ministers agreed on Tuesday to allocate 31.5 billion euros in development funding to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries over the next seven years, a slight rise in support despite the domestic austerity in many EU member states.
EU development ministers meeting in Brussels pledged the sum through the European Development Fund (EDF), which pools aid from member states for countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) and is overseen by the European Commission.
The funding, providing investment capital as well as grants, will run along the EU budget timeline of 2014-2020, though it is not part of the development funding of the long-term EU budget.
The seven-year EU budget agreed in February had the first net reduction in the bloc's history, though the EDF allocation agreed on Tuesday marks a slight increase on the last round, in 2008. The largest contributors to the fund are Germany, France, Britain and Italy.
German development minister Dirk Niebel told reporters it was important to take care in allocating EDF funds, to which his country contributes almost 6.3 billion euros.
The European Union should shift money away from prosperous recipient countries and "concentrate the taxpayers' money on those countries that are not so far developed yet".
"Less and less developing countries want to have handouts, they would rather have investment. Because they know if they develop economically, they can fight the causes of poverty," he said.
Ministers also reaffirmed a target for EU nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their gross national income to development assistance by 2015.
But aid groups said it was unlikely countries could reach that target in time.
"They're not on track, for sure. There are only four European countries that are meeting the target, so definitely the others need to step up their effort if they're serious about meeting the commitment by 2015," Oxfam's EU policy adviser Catherine Olier told Reuters.
Reporting by Ethan Bilby; Editing by Jon Hemming