A comment on ‘Shaping Europe’s international role’

Development Policy29 Sep 2009Dieter Frisch

I share most of the ideas, concerns and recommendations expressed in this article. There is however one point where more clarity would be welcome: the role of the future Development Commissioner and the development services reporting to him.

I want to make it clear that I am not in favour of an autonomous development policy – the authors call it “silo mentality” – , but that I consider development policy as an integral part of EU’s External Action, complementary, on an equal footing, with the other dimensions of External Action: Foreign and Security Policy, Trade, Humanitarian Aid… None of these policies should be instrumentalized by others; but they should mutually and coherently support each other.

This being said, the “strong Development Commissioner” – the authors are calling for – and his services should be in control of the complete development chain: development policy, resource allocation, programming, identification of projects/programmes, financing decisions, implementation. On politically sensitive aspects, including resource allocation and programming, they should of course act in close consultation with the foreign policy department, i.e. the future European External Action Service (EEAS). Conversely, the idea to transfer parts of the development chain into the EEAS could only end up in an administrative chaos. Even more importantly: it would give room to the temptation to transform development cooperation into an instrument serving the short-term objectives of Foreign and Security Policy and, thus, mix the long and the short term, conflict prevention and crisis management, intergovernmental and Community aspects…Let us not forget that development is a condition for peace and stability – it is structural conflict prevention par excellence – , whereas peace and security are of course also conditions for development!

The present distribution of tasks in the European Commission, where cooperation with the developing world is split geographically between two Commissioners and two departments, where the development chain is administratively split between programming and identification of projects/programmes, where the External Affairs Commissioner is responsible for the implementing department “Aidco”, is the result of a series of purely circumstantial and personal reasons and represents a permanent risk of incoherence within this policy area.

The new institutional architecture for EU’s External Action which will be put in place with the Lisbon Treaty offers a unique opportunity to tidy up what many consider as an organisational mess in the area of development policy.