New figures confirm that the European Union and its member states have consolidated their place as the world’s leading aid donor in 2016. But NGOs and MEPs say the picture is distorted and the aid figures are inflated. Preliminary OECD figures show that Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by the EU and its member states has reached €75.5 billion in 2016. This constitutes an 11% increase compared to 2015 levels. Highest level to date The EU’s assistance has increased for the fourth year in a row and reached its highest level to date, the Commission said in a press release yesterday (11 April). In 2016, EU collective ODA represented 0.51% of EU Gross National Income (GNI), having increased from 0.47% in 2015. This is significantly above the 0.21% average of countries that are not members of the EU’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Significantly, Germany, the EU’s largest country, has for the first time met its commitment to dedicate more than 0.7% of GNI to development cooperation. MEP Neuser: 'Missed 0.7% target is eating away at Germany’s credibility' Germany’s lack of investment in development cooperation is damaging the country’s credibility and is a catastrophe for developing countries, says MEP Norbert Neuser in an interview with EURACTIV.de, arguing that effective development aid could greatly reduce worldwide suffering and could have prevented the Ebola outbreak. However other countries, including the Netherlands, dropped below this figure. The downside Finnish Vihreä liitto MEP Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA ) stressed that the increase was a result of some member states counting certain expenses associated with receiving refugees as development aid. “The EU needs to find funds for both development and assisting refugees, and should not trade one against the other,” she stated. “Before we congratulate Germany on joining the club of those few EU member states who have reached their commitment of 0.7% of GNI to development cooperation, it is worth noticing that over 20% of its official development aid is spent on receiving refugees. At the same time, aid directed to the poorest countries is in decline.