Thursday, April 24, 2008

Simon Stocker on the implications of the Lisbon Treaty

Source: Concord Flash 50, March 2008

The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty over the coming months will be important if we are to capitalise on the gains that it contains for development policies.

The new treaty clearly identifies the European Union’s development policy as providing the principal framework governing the EU’s cooperation with all developing countries. It places the eradication of poverty as the overarching objective for development cooperation and identifies the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as central. The treaty also maintains the principle that all EU policies having an impact on developing countries must be coherent with the Union’s development policies and their implementation. Additionally, for the first time in a treaty, it includes a legal provision on the EU’s humanitarian assistance to all parts of the world.

Although the Lisbon Treaty is all we hoped for in strengthening the legal base for Europe’s development cooperation policy, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. As soon as it is ratified, the negotiations on its implementation will start. Many questions about the new ways in which development aid will be delivered still remain to be answered. For instance, what will be the exact role of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in development cooperation; how will the European External Action Service (EEAS) function; what are the consequences of the Lisbon Treaty for the EU budget; and what is the role of the European Parliament (EP) in development cooperation policies? The future negotiations will bring the answers to these questions, but NGOs would be wise to start deliberating on their position on these different issues now.

Some arguments and answers
The fact that the Lisbon Treaty gives development cooperation and humanitarian aid a clear and separate role in the EU’s relations with the developing world needs to be acknowledged at the political level, by allowing for a separate Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid now and in the future. His/her remit should cover not only all developing countries (as identified by the OECD DAC criteria), but also all development issues. He/she needs to be supported by his/her own Directorate-General, responsible not only for drafting but also for implementing development and humanitarian aid policies.

This means that the role of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy needs to be clearly defined. The High Representative will be based in the Council of the EU and will chair the Council of Ministers dealing with external issues. He/she will also have a foot in the Commission, as a Vice-President with the role of coordinating all of the EU’s external policy areas: the foreign and security policies that fall under the remit of the Council, as well as those for which the Commission has competence – including development, trade, economic cooperation, and humanitarian aid. As coordinator he/she will have to ensure that the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid can play his/her role fully and that development and humanitarian aid policies are not subordinated to other external relations policies.

The High Representative will be supported by the European External Action Service (EEAS) in implementing her/his role in both the Council and the Commission. However, so far there has been no clear indication as to how the EEAS will fit into these bodies’ administrative and budgetary set-ups. It must be made clear, though, that development and humanitarian assistance will have a special place in the EEAS, together with sufficient funding to allow the full attainment of the EU’s development objective of poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs.

The European Parliament is the personification of democratic scrutiny. Although the Lisbon Treaty has expanded its role, the EP’s power to scrutinize development cooperation needs to be increased and fully implemented. As co-legislator, in the past the EP has ensured that the funds provided through the Development Cooperation Instrument went to finance legitimate development activities, as defined by agreements made within the DAC. It should be given the opportunity to have a similar impact on the EDF by budgeting for it, now that the Lisbon Treaty has created the space for it to do so.

As NGOs, we need to put our weight behind these requirements to ensure that the EU delivers on its commitment to help eradicate poverty.

Simon Stocker is Director of Eurostep

Check Euforic's newsfeed on EU cooperation