Boris Johnson has been criticised for “siphoning off” from the UK’s foreign aid budget to fund diplomacy in former Soviet states and the Middle East via a new £700m “pro-democracy” fund.
The row came as the foreign secretary embarked on a two-day visit to the Gambia and Ghana, where he will announce that the Gambia is to rejoin the Commonwealth.
The fund is expected to be used to foster stability and shore up western influence in countries threatened by Russia, such as Ukraine. However, questions have been raised after it was revealed the fund could be spent on “empowerment” projects in the Baltics, countries that are not on the list of those eligible for official development assistance, which are only the poorest and lowest middle income countries.
The cross-government £700m fund would be available over four years, a Foreign Office spokesperson said. The FCO said in a statement: “The empowerment fund is in the early stages of development. Details of the fund will be announced in parliament in due course.”
Foreign Office sources said the new empowerment fund would be aimed at promoting democracy in countries across the world.
The Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who sits on the international development select committee, said he was concerned that aid funds were being diverted. “I absolutely support us bolstering the Baltic states and Ukraine against Russia … but there is a concern here if it involves diverting funds from destabilised countries in