EU change

Development Policy28 Oct 2009Mikaela Gavas, Jeske van Seters

Discussing the implications of a ratified Lisbon Treaty for the EU’s external action architecture

At Ermonville in December 2008 and in London in April 2009, a group of around 50 politicians, policy-makers and analysts gathered to discuss Europe’s role in development and to think through practical and effective operational structures. As a follow-up to those conferences, ODI, AFD, DFID and KFW are now jointly hosting an online discussion forum through which analysis, ideas and thinking are shared. Over 50 ‘EU change-makers’, most of whom attended the Ermonville and/or London conferences, take part in the forum. The aim of this initiative, as stated by the organisers, is ‘to help write a different script for EU development cooperation and its relationship to the broader external relations agenda’.

The online discussion forum will run from 28 September to 5 December 2009 and focuses on a different topic each week. In the first two weeks, particularly the implications of a ratified Lisbon Treaty for the EU’s external action architecture were actively discussed.

In their (e-mail) contributions, some participants highlighted the risks that the institutional changes may compromise the importance of development in the new structure. These risks revolve around (1) ‘instrumentalising’ development programmes in support of EU foreign policy objectives, (2) giving authority to people who have little knowledge of development and (3) consequently putting off those who want to work in EU development policy, and thus over time, reducing the effective voice of development.

The following proposals were put forward by the participants for the new EU development architecture which could go a long way to either minimise or take away the above three risks:

  • A strong Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, with a wider remit than the African Caribbean and Pacific countries;
  • A competent development service responsible for development policy, programming and implementation in developing countries with enhanced capacity for research;
  • An implementation agency with strong technical competence;
  • Scope for a credible ‘development career path’ either within the development service and in the aid implementation agency;
  • A European External Action Service (EEAS) with geographical desks covering the entire world and responsibility for the Neighbourhood region and the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument as well as conflict prevention, crisis management and human rights;
  • Collaboration between the development service and the EEAS, with the EEAS playing a strong role in contributing to development programming by providing overall strategic direction for the EU’s relationship with third countries, and with the development service involved in EEAS-led programming;
  • Regular convening of all external relations Commissioners by the High Representative to ensure greater policy coherence for development;
  • Programming staff in EU Delegations that participate in an integrated team working with the head of Delegation, but reporting to the relevant Commissioner;
  • An engaged European Parliament’s Development Committee;
  • Greater operational and intellectual coordination and dialogue between the Commission and bilateral donor agencies, through for example, regular meetings between directors, chief economists and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
  • An enhanced contribution by the EIB to development;
  • The creation of a European development bank, which would offer a wide range of instruments and consolidated volumes of financing.

In the following weeks, the discussions among the ‘EU-Change makers’ will continue. The topics yet to be discussed include EU poverty targeting, regional partnerships, aid instruments and the role and future of the European Consensus on Development. In future contributions to this blog we will keep you informed on the outcome of the discussions. But in the meantime, we would be very interested in reading your own views and ideas on the changes that should be made.