On 14-15 May, EU Development Ministers will come together for their twice-yearly meeting in the Council. The groundwork for the meeting was laid at the informal Development Ministers meeting in March, a tradition fortunately renewed by the German Presidency after the absence of such meetings in 2006 under the Austrian and Finnish presidencies.
The Council will deliver conclusions on the Commission's annual monitoring of progress report on EU Monterrey and MDG commitments on financing for development. The April Commission report highlights the attainment of the 0.39% of GNI to ODA target set for 2006. However, it also acknowledges that this has been dependent on Member States counting debt relief as aid, contrary to the Monterrey Consensus. Excluding debt relief, Germany's net ODA actually decreased by 5.5%, France's by 0.7%, and the UK's increased only marginally by 0.9%, a key trend as these three countries represent 55% of total EU aid. With Greece, Italy, and Portugal also failing to meet the agreed 0.33% individual target, the Commission urges all Member States establish in 2007 timetables to ensure gradually rising aid levels year on year.
In an April press release, CONCORD warned European governments over inflating their aid figures and failing to live up to their promises. Official figures reveal that close to one third of EU development assistance in 2006 did not deliver any fresh resources for poor countries. CONCORD is calling for new rules to ensure that debt cancellation does not come at the expense of real increases in aid for developing countries. On 11 May, CONCORD will launch its second annual in-depth report analysing issues of quality and quantity of aid from the European Union member states to the developing world, entitled 'Hold the Applause! EU governments risk breaking aid promises'.
Returning to the Commission progress report, it notes "slow but steady" progress on innovative sources of financing, while underlining that these cannot replace ODA. A short section on debt sustainability proposes that Member States further consider how to promote responsible lending and borrowing. Advances in joint EU programming at country level are noted in 13 countries, but hampered by disparate Member State approaches to programming and gaps between positions expressed by headquarters and at field level. The Commission repeats its advocacy of general budget support as a means to increase aid predictability; it also calls for progress in untying of aid from a trade approach (reciprocal access between donors) to a propoor approach (access for developing countries, promotion of local preferences). It timidly proposes to reinforce the European voice within the World Bank while at the same time enhancing the voice of developing countries, illustrating the total lack of progress on this promise made in 2005. Finally, the report mentions plans for a 2008 Commission proposal for a joint EU strategy for disaster risk reduction.
Other topics to be covered during the GAERC meeting include EU donor division of labor and complementarity; a joint EU Aid for Trade strategy; stocktaking of Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations; the 10th EDF implementing regulation; preparation of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers on 25 May (decision on reallocation of 9th EDF funds, voluntary Member State contributions to the Africa Peace Facility), and update on the preparations for a joint EU-Africa Strategy; and conclusions on EU-Africa energy cooperation, on health workers in developing countries, and on gender equality.
Source: EU News - Issue 3, May 2007 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa).
See also Euforic dossier on EU cooperation.