Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Czech Presidency will face a challenging environment for development

Source: EU News, Issue 8, November/December 2008

A number of initiatives and discussions to assess and address the impact of the financial and economic crisis on people living in poverty in Europe and outside Europe will take place during the Czech Presidency of the EU, said the Czech Permanent Representation to the EU to Caritas Europa as they met on 15 December. Following up to the Doha Conference on Financing for Development and ahead of the G20 meeting in London in April, the Czech Presidency will guide the preparation of a statement on the financial crisis impact on developing countries which could consist of a political chapeau to the traditional “April package” of reports on aid effectiveness, financing for development and the MDGs.

Linking to broader EU debates on energy security and recent increases in global energy prices, the Czech Presidency hopes to bring forward what could be an interesting debate on Southern access to local and sustainable energy sources. This issue will be on the agenda of the informal meeting of of Development Ministers in Prague on 29-30 January, with the view to lead to a Staff Paper. The Czechs plan to place the emphasis on development cooperation with countries in Southeastern and Eastern Europe, which appears to raise divergent views in DG DEV and DG RELEX. A debate on the development impact of the EU’s financial instruments targeted towards these regions could be held at the January informal ministerial meeting.

The Czech Presidency will be responsible for ensuring that Member States put forward clear plans for implementation of the Accra Agenda for Action on aid effectiveness, in the lead-up to the 18-19 May meeting of Development Ministers in the Council. The future of EU relations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries will also be front and center, with the kick-off of negotiations on the second revision to the 2000-2020 Cotonou Partnership Agreement (see article below). In parallel, the process for the mid-term review of the EU’s country strategies for development will begin, with the transparency of the process and ability of civil society to influence the orientation of the strategies towards a meaningful impact for the most vulnerable populations at stake.

A promising element of the Presidency is the attention to be given to democratic governance, with a focus on democracy and human rights, including national accountability and the roles of Parliaments and civil society. A conference should be organised in March/April jointly with the civil society. As part of it, one roundtable should be dedicated to governance and development cooperation. The Czech Permanent Representation to the EU highlighted their good ongoing communication with FORS, the Czech Platform of Development NGOs and confirmed that CONCORD would be invited to some CODEV meetings during the course of their Presidency, as it already happened in the past.

The first half of 2009 also portends major changes in the EU institutions. Still to be resolved is the thorny question of the Irish no to the Lisbon Treaty, while elections will go forward in June for the new European Parliament, bringing with it a new Commission of the same political stripes as the Parliament’s majority. This will raise again larger questions about the place of development in the EU: both in terms of its coherence and autonomy vis-à-vis other external policies, as well as its financial means, with the parallel early review of priorities for the 2007-13 EU budget.

See the EU Presidency Outlook for Development including a review of the French presidency, World Economy & Development in brief, 9 Dec 2008.

See also Euforic's newsfeeds on the EU Presidency, CIDSE and APRODEV