Source: Concord Flash 62, June 2009
Which Development for the new Europe?
The newly elected Members of the European Parliament will be faced with critical challenges during their five year term of office. While uncertainty remains over the future of the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament will undoubtedly oversee the implementation of many of the Treaty’s provisions. This is important for the European Union’s relations with the rest of the world. The Treaty seeks to strengthen the Union’s role in the world through enhancing its common foreign policy capacity - an objective that is to be welcomed.
Throughout the EU’s 50 year history its development cooperation has been the centre piece of its external policy. As a collective group of nations, the EU continues to provide more than 50% of the world’s official development aid, a position that brings some responsibility for ensuring that the Union’s relations with developing countries are pursued first and foremost in accordance with its development policy. However, this cannot be achieved through aid alone.
The EU’s identity through development cooperation
The Lisbon Treaty should re-enforce the EU’s position as a global leader in development. It reflects the emphasis of development cooperation as a nurturing policy in international relations, recognising this in the context of the Union’s expanding membership. It identifies development cooperation as an independent policy area with EU competency providing the principal framework for the EU’s relations with all developing countries, and sets the eradication of poverty as the single principle objective of this policy.
In so doing it establishes the relationship of this overarching objective to other external policy areas. The objective of poverty eradication must be taken into account when actions relating to other policies are planned and implemented, thereby establishing a hierarchical relationship in relation to the EU’s approaches to developing countries.
A key question will be how the inevitable reforms to the institutions ensure the effective implementation of the Lisbon Treaty’s provisions and intentions. They will need to ensure that there is a single dedicated development service within the Commission embracing the EU’s relations with all developing countries that guarantees development as an independent policy area. Not only regarding aid delivery, but also with the capacity to assert the political interests of the Union’s development policy. This requires an experienced Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid sitting as an equal with all other Commissioners in the college. The creation of the Union’s diplomatic service must respect the integrity of development and humanitarian aid as a Community Policy.
In the words of Mirjam van Reisen, author of Window of Opportunity – EU Development Cooperation after the Cold War, “EU development policy reflects the EU’s identity and the importance given to values expressed in the slogan ‘unity through diversity’ - upholding international human rights, supporting accountable and inclusive democracies, creating conducive environments for the involvement of women in peace-building and conflict resolution; and creating sustainable economies with regulatory frameworks that
protect against excessive gaps between rich and poor.”
Simon Stocker, Director of Eurostep, member of the CONCORD Policy Forum
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