Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Department for International Development


  During the Sub Committee's Examination of Witnesses on 3 June 1998, the Chairman asked about the budget for the democracy programme under TACIS, which she understood to have been cut. Mark Lowcock undertook to provide additional information on this point.

  2. There are several budget lines available to the Newly Independent States covered by TACIS. The main one, and the largest, is B7-520, assistance for economic reform and recovery in the New Independent States and Mongolia. This line has historically under-spent and there is a large overhang of commitments which cannot be translated into payments because of absorptive capacity in the recipient countries and administrative capacity in the Commission. Because of our focus on effectiveness, and our belief that budgets should better reflect what can actually be spent, we have supported the small cuts proposed by the Commission in the 1999 Preliminary Draft Budget. This does not necessarily mean that spending will fall, just that what is in the budget should correspond more closely with what can actually be spent.

  3. There are other budget lines which fund transfrontier co-operation and rehabilitation and reconstruction measures. These have been cut (in the case of transfrontier co-operation by one third) but funding for rehabilitation and reconstruction is available from a more general line and of course from the emergency aid line in case of need. DFID is concerned that the Community should focus its resources on the poorest countries and we have therefore supported increases of 70 per cent to budget line B7-5310 which provides exceptional assistance to Armenia, Georgia and Tajikistan, the poorest TACIS countries. We are negotiating with the Commission a way of delivering exceptional assistance to Azerbaijan.

  4. There are a group of budget lines supporting human rights and democracy which are geographically divided. For the sake of transparency and budget rationalisation, the UK has consistently argued that all countries should have equal access to one line for this purpose. There is a budget line which covers assistance towards democracy in the Newly Independent States and Mongolia. In the Commission's proposals for the 1999 budget, this line has remained at its 1998 level. In addition, most TACIS countries have access to the general human rights and democracy budget line for developing countries (which the UK supports); and all TACIS countries benefit from the Community's support to NGOs supporting human rights and its support for the International Criminal Court.

  5. At present, as Mark Lowcock explained during the Examination of Witnesses, the budget for 1999 is only in its preliminary draft form. It still has to go twice to the European Parliament and be approved by the Council. It is therefore possible that the amounts available to TACIS countries will change as a result of further discussion.

26 June 1998

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