Despite urging from leaders in the United Kingdom and France, the European Union will not donate $1 billion in 2004 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, The [London] Guardian reports. U.K. prime minister Tony Blair said the smaller of the 15 current E.U. members and 10 nations joining the union next year were not prepared to contribute because of ongoing budget problems.
"We have got 25 countries sitting around the table, and the decision has got to be unanimous. We may find that some countries, because of their budget problems, aren't prepared to commit to that," Blair told the Guardian. Blair and French president Jacques Chirac had asked the E.U. to pledge $1 billion to the fund to match the announced U.S. contribution.
AIDS activists in Europe were disappointed by the E.U.'s decision. "Europe's leaders don't want America to dictate the world's agenda, but they're unwilling to pay the price for leadership themselves on this," said Lucy Matthew, director of the AIDS activist organization Data Europe. The United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Belgium are the only E.U. member countries to make separate commitments to the fund this year, totaling $338 million.