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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is EU development aid entering a new era in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty?

Brussels, 26 February 2007. Giles Merritt of Friends of Europe opened the first Development Policy Forum by questioning whether the stronger common foreign and security policy spelled out in the Lisbon treaty sidelines development aid. He reviewed progress to reach development aid targets of 0.7% of GDP in the EU members and questioned whether the Lisbon treaty would be able to reverse the decline in aid expenditure by member states.

Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), began by praising the EUs recent achievements in development aid. He highlighted the effectiveness of EC interventions in India where EU aid had ensured that 11 million more children were now in school. The EU has been a global leader on climate change, and could be a still stronger force. The Lisbon treaty presents opportunities, it has clear strategic priorities, and it represents a European consensus on development.

In this regard, Thomas emphasized three elements of the Treaty;
  • the focus on reduction/eradication of poverty;
  • the statement of humanitarian principles;
  • the need for the EU to improve coherence across foreign policy.
Following from the Treaty he saw a need to develop a stronger voice for development policy and its implementation. This needs a Commisioner for development who integrates the development aid cycles for ACP countries together with Asia and Latin America. He confirmed to Mr. Merritt that this would mean merging DG Development and EuropeAid. The EU delegations would also need a stronger policy capacity.

Elmar Brok of the European Parliament began by emphasizing the scale of EU effects on developing countries. The EU is responsible for 20% of world trade, therefore any attempts at fair trade will have more effect than development aid. Even so the EU and Member States collectively spend 47 billion euros each year on development aid, some 100 euros per citizen. He feels that the EU is presently a global payer not player. The Lisbon treaty gives a chance to address this lack of visibility through a one voice policy. The proposed external service should be linked to the Commission with a Commissioner for development. There is a strong need to evaluate the method of assistance. There is also a need to explain to citizens why development policy improves security and how migration issues can be addressed through development aid. He emphasized the need for new architecture in EU development assistance and pointed to the success of his own group in linking the European Parliament with national parliaments on development issues.

Patrick Child, Head of Cabinet of the EU Commissioner for External Relations, opened by stating that internal architecture is not the main problem. Instead the core issue is that member states need to live up to their political commitment to the MDGs. There is also a need for greater coherence and burden sharing between the commission and national programmes. Further, development policy objectives need to be linked with trade, agriculture and climate change policies. There should also be some realism about the capacity of a high representative to spend time on development policy and foreign relations. At present, 90% of their time would be spent on Kosovo, the Middle East and Darfur.

Simon Stocker, Director of Eurostep, added that he felt there were three elements missing from the Treaty. First, there needs to be a single policy for development for all countries and this should include the ACP countries. Second, there needs to be a Commissioner as a voice for development. Finally, citizen perceptions related to development need to be addressed. The public currently feel that policies are dictated by self interest. There is therefore a need for more transparency in development aid. He raised the challenge of increasing development budgets to the 0.7% of GDP through public awareness.

by Chris Addison

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