Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence


WRITTEN EVIDENCE

Memorandum by BOND

BOND'S RESPONSE TO THE CONVENTION EXTERNAL ACTIONS WORKING GROUP FINAL REPORT

  BOND is a network of over 270 UK NGOs working in international development and development education with links in over 200 countries worldwide. Millions of UK citizens directly support the work of BOND agencies whether as volunteers, members or donors.

SUMMARY ASSESSMENT

  The Working Group on External Action's report risks not only sidelining development policy commitments, but subordinating EU development co-operation instruments to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). There is a minimal reference to development co-operation and poverty eradication in the 34-page report. The objective to "defend and promote the Union's values in the wider world" has dominated the Working Group debate with a minimal acknowledgement of Europe's global responsibilities in the preamble. Throughout the substantive part of the report, the notion of "values" is replaced by "strategic interests". Development co-operation is regarded as one of the "instruments and tools" that the Union has at its disposal in the attempt to "maximise its influence". This narrow vision of development and humanitarian assistance as a means to political ends would undermine the EU's credibility as a global development actor. The Convention must ensure that the European Community Development Policy Statement of November 2000 is strengthened and safeguarded through a development chapter maintaining the strong legal basis for EU development co-operation in the treaty (Articles 177, 178, 180) and strengthening EU institutions for an effective and independent development policy aimed at poverty eradication.

POSITIVE PROPOSALS IN THE WORKING GROUP REPORT

  The final report of the Working Group on External Actions contains a number of suggestions that could potentially improve the effectiveness of EU development co-operation, with certain provisos. BOND welcomes the proposals to review and simplify legal and administrative instruments for EC aid, but stresses that a rationalisation exercise should not be based on administrative and management grounds without serious strategic analysis of the respective roles of thematic and geographic lines in EU development aid. A thorough analysis of the role of the current budget lines, their contribution to poverty alleviation, and of the EC capacity to manage these in co-operation with its external partners should be made. This analysis should be based on the EC's Development Policy Statement of 2000. The proposal to bring the European Development Fund (EDF) within the overall EU budget would introduce European Parliamentary scrutiny, but should not result in funds being reduced or diverted to other regions. However, if development co-operation is not maintained and strengthened with a legal basis, EDF budgetisation will be counter-productive and detrimental to a poverty-focused policy. Finally, BOND welcomes the call for the European Commission to work to ensure greater complementarity and consistency between EU and national Official Development Assistance (ODA).

RECOMMENDATIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE WORKING GROUP REPORT

1.   A separate chapter for development co-operation

  As the main trading partner of developing countries and the world's second largest multilateral donor of Official Development Assistance, the EU has a profound impact on the ability of developing countries to tackle poverty. Development co-operation should remain a separately defined Community competency with its own principles and objectives, in recognition of the EU's global responsibilities. A comprehensive, independent development policy at an EU level has an extremely important function to play in promoting and securing adherence to international standards and targets; and is essential if the EU is to speak with credibility, with one voice in international development fora and be truly effective in eradicating poverty.

2.   Poverty eradication as the primary objective of EU development co-operation and mainstreamed into EU external relations

  The policy for development co-operation jointly adopted by the Commission and the Council in November 2000, and approved by the European Parliament, clearly set poverty reduction as the primary objective of EC development policy. In the Convention's proposed constitutional treaty, under the section entitled "Principles and Objectives of EU External Action", it is imperative that poverty eradication, human rights and sustainable development feature as the primary objectives for EC development co-operation. Development commitments should be mainstreamed into the EU's decision-making on all external actions.

3.   Strong institutions for development in the Council and the Commission

  An effective development policy requires a well-defined and separate political responsibility for development with both procedural and institutional reforms to promote transparency, accountability and participation in decision-making. It requires a Commissioner for Development whose priorities are not determined by an "EU External Representative", a Service or Directorate for Development that is focused on supporting sustainable and social development, and not the EU's own commercial or foreign policy agenda, a re-activated Development Council that creates an independent space for European Development Ministers to confer and a European Parliament that maintains its crucial role in scrutinising aid programmes on behalf of the EU public.

4.   Clarification of the definition of coherence and consistency—Development instruments to be determined by development policy

  The Maastricht Treaty defined "coherence" as the need for Community policies to take development objectives into account if they have an impact on development countries. The Amsterdam Treaty introduced the concept of consistency and defined this as the need for all Community policies to be consistent with the objectives of the CFSP. The confusion of the definitions of coherence and consistency is evident in the Working Group's final report. This risks dismantling the principle of coherence and rendering it void of any political or legal value. Development co-operation should remain firmly based on the principle of coherence as defined in the Maastricht Treaty. An absence or misinterpretation of the Maastricht commitment to coherence in the new Treaty would be indefensible. What the EU offers developing countries with one hand, it should not take away with the other.

5.   Member State development programmes compatible with and complementary to EU development

co-operation in tackling poverty

  Development co-operation must remain a separately defined policy area within the constitutional treaty and its nature as a complementary competence shared between Member States and the EU institutions should be enhanced. Member State development programmes should adhere to the fundamental principles of EC development co-operation enshrined in the treaty, first and foremost, in terms of poverty eradication. The European Commission should facilitate Member State efforts to increase national aid levels towards the 0.7 per cent target and improve the quality and effectiveness of EU development assistance.

January 2003


 
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