Sunday, October 05, 2008

Budget 2009 – Development and foreign affairs committees of the Parliament ask more money for external relations

Source: EU News, nr. 6, September 2008

Two committees of the European Parliament, the Committee on foreign affairs (AFET) and the Committee for Development (DEVE) share the responsibility of the EU External Action budget (Heading 4). Each of them adopts amendments to the draft budget that had been adopted by the Council in July on the basis of a proposal from the Commission. In general the Parliament asks for an increase of the budget lines and also adds a few comments on the way the funds should be utilised. Here are the main requests from the two committees for the Budget 2009:

Migration and asylum: slight increase by less than 2 m€ is requested by AFET to a total of 53.1 m€.

Common Foreign and security policy:
the AFET asks for a systematic reduction by 50% of all budget lines under that chapter with the argument that there is a need to improve transparency, visibility, and also accountability of actions pursued within the CFSP (particularly concerning EULEX (EU rule of law mission in Kosovo); appointment and evaluation of EU Special Representatives etc.

Human rights and democracy: AFET asks for 20 m€ increase (to a total of 130.3 m€) and adds the following comment:
- encouraging less well represented groups to gain a voice and participate in civil society and the political system, combating all forms of discrimination, and strengthening the rights of women and children and other particularly vulnerable groups, including disabled persons and older persons as well as gays, lesbians and transgender persons.

Stability Instrument – crisis response: AFET asks for 10 more m€ (total 214.8 m€) and the following comments:
- Part of the appropriation aimed at crisis response measures will be managed through a facility fund for NGO-led activities at grassroots level to prevent violent escalations.
- In 2009 the country-specific crisis response exceptional measures will take NGO proposals more into account and increase the share spent on these proposals.
European Neighbourhood and Partnership financial assistance to Palestine, the peace process and UNRWA: AFET asks for a strong increase by 286 m€ (total 447 m€) in reaction to the unjustified EC and Council’s proposals to reduce the budget compared to 2008. According to AFET, the UNRWA which is the only provider of health, education and social services assistance to people living in the Gaza strip is facing increasing financial problems when trying to alleviate the increasing poverty of the people in the Gaza strip.

Aid to Latin America and Asia: AFET wants to increase the budget for Latin America by 10 m€ (total of 364.2 m€), budget for Asia worth 517.4 m€ is maintained.
DEVE adds the following comment in budget lines for Latin America, Asia, Central Asia and South Africa:
“Where assistance is delivered via budget support, the Commission shall ensure partner countries to develop parliamentary control and audit capacities, in line with Article 25 (1) (b) of Regulation… establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation. This shall include full provision of information and the transmission of budget support agreements to parliamentary control entities and supreme audit institutions”.
And also the following comments with regard to the contribution to the Global Climate Change Alliance (which is good as the GCCA should not be funded with EDF and thematic budget line only):
– support disaster prevention and risk reduction, including climate-change-related hazards, including through contributions to support the regional implementation of the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA).

Aid to Afghanistan: AFET wants to increase it by 24m€ to a total of 184 m€ and to put more emphasis on social development:
The EU should increase its financial assistance to such areas in Afghanistan as health (construction and renovation of hospitals, prevention of children mortality) and education (construction of schools, vocational and literacy training), small and medium size infrastructure projects (reparation of roads network, embankments, etc.) as well as effectively implement job security ("cash for work") and food security ("food for work") schemes.
As well as Part of this appropriation is to be used for mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction, based on ownership and national strategies of disaster-prone countries.

Thematic budget lines:

Food Security: DEVE asks for an increase by 50 m€ (total 283.2 m€) and adds the following comment:
This instrument shall also be used to support actions aimed at responding to the crisis of soaring food prices, particularly by supporting actions
- to promote increased agricultural productivity including provision of agricultural inputs for the next agricultural cycle
- to mitigate the immediate effects of high food prices on low-income populations by support to social safety-nets and similar measures.

Another proposal from DEVE is to establish a new tiny budget line with 2m€ as a pilot project entitled Finance for agricultural production and aiming at facilitating access to small-holder farmers to financial resources which should be used to stimulate agricultural production in developing countries. These appropriations should be channelled through organisations specialised in microfinance, including local banks and associations, which conform to recognised international standards of transparency, accountability and financial probity.

DEVE’s rapporteur argues that this kind of actions does not fit into the Food security thematic programme and it is the reason why a separate project has to be established. We think however that it would be more effective to lobby for this kind of microfinance actions to be funded at a larger scale under the FS programme than to add a little budget line that will have no significant impact at field level. Something to keep in mind when reviewing the thematic programmes at mid-term (in 2010).

Non state actors: no increase of the budgets for non-state actors (184 m€) and for local authorities (32 m€) is requested. No new comment is added except a general comment that is included everywhere in the budget regarding the need include aspects of input activities and chain of results (output, outcome, impact) in evaluations of projects.

Environment and natural resources: the budget has already been increased compared to 2007 in the original Commission’s proposal to a total of 144.6 m€, the Parliament’s committee on Environment wants to add the following comment about the way to use the additional resources: The increase in funding aims to finance climate change adaptation measures, in particular measures to avoid deforestation and forest degradation.

The DEVE also asks for the pilot project on water management in developing countries to be continued with a budget of 3 m€.

Investing in people

Budget line for health: DEVE asks for an increase by 10 m€ (total 40.6 m€) and maintains the budget allocated to the Global Health Fund at 50 m€.
Gender equality: DEVE asks for an increase by 1.8 m€ (total 10 m€) with the following comment: Appropriations for 2009 for DCI countries shall be used specifically for programmes that support the participation of women as equal actors in the development of their societies and regions. With the argument that Appropriations for 2009 for this line are programmes for ENPI countries only. The increase will allow actions in DCI countries as well.

Other aspects of human and social development: DEVE asks for total of 28 m€.
Next steps in the process: Note that all these requests have now been transmitted to the Budget Committee of the Parliament that will select through a vote the amendments to be presented to the plenary session of the Parliament for the vote in first reading (end of October). The Budget committee has an arbitrary role and it may well be that not all amendments proposed by AFET and DEVE are retained.

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