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1. Introduction

Development is central to EU external action, along with its foreign, security and trade policies. Taken as a whole, the EU is the biggest contributor of development and humanitarian aid in the world. Currently, more than half the money spent globally to help poor countries comes from the European Union and its member states. For the EU, trade and aid are the key ways in which Europe is helping developing countries fight poverty and integrate into the globalised world economy.

The primary and overarching objective of EU development policy is the eradication of poverty in the context of sustainable development, including achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The eight MDGs range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, by the target date of 2015.

Some observers say the MDGs are unrealistic and include nothing about democracy and governance, but supporters say the globally agreed goals are the first set of universal development standards against which the progress of poor countries can be measured.

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