The End of the Beginning?

Development Policy05 Nov 2009Niels Keijzer

Those of you who missed the Czech Constitutional Court’s ruling and the subsequent signing of the Treaty by Vaclav Klaus on were likely staying on an uninhabited island. The addition of the final signature last Tuesday at 15.00 PM Central European Time also marked an official end to a long period of speculation and uncertainty, as well as a short tradition of researchers to accompany statements on Lisbon with ‘if ratified’, ‘likely to be ratified’, ‘eventual ratification of’, … The Treaty will now likely ‘enter into force’ on 1 December 2009.

That time is now over, and now most attention is arguably spent on rumours about who will take up the new two top political posts, rumours which are ever-dynamic and are covered in much detail by different media. With the exception of a single blog post on the EU Observer website, it appears that nobody really has a problem with the prospect of all three top posts (President of the Council, Commission, and High Representative for foreign affairs) will go to male candidates. But although the Lisbon Treaty aims to ensure a more democratic, transparent and effective Union, this does not appear to apply to this preparatory phase.

Much more important for this Blog, though, are the implications of Lisbon for the future of European development cooperation. As I described in more detail in a previous blog post, much of this relates to the distribution of responsibilities for development cooperation between the European Commission and the European External Action Service, as well as the extent to which the European Parliament will be able to hold the new EEAS to account.

Public Conclusions of a meeting of EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs on 26 October confirm that guidelines for the establishment of the EEAS have now been adopted. It has been agreed that it will become a separate entity with autonomy in terms of its budget and staff management (and hence independent from the Commission and the Council Secretariat). Most of all though, it has been decided not to make decisions yet, and the first job of the High Representative on foreign affairs will be to make a proposal on the organisation of the service, which will be adopted by the EU in April next year.

A short commentary on the adopted plan notes the following: “The 27 [EU member states] give themselves until the end of the year to split up between the EEAS and the Commission services the programming of the different financial instruments (European Development Fund for the ACP, European neighbourhood and partnership instrument, development cooperation instrument, European instrument for democracy and human rights, stability instrument, etc), which add up to nearly €50 billion for 2007-2013.”

As far as development cooperation is concerned, it is now considered to move the ‘geographic units’ of DG Development into the new EEAS, which could be put in charge with the programming of development cooperation with the Commission keeping responsibility of the rest of the ‘project cycle’. This would in practice likely have the consequence that DG Development (now responsible for programming) will be merged with EuropeAid (responsible for implementation). At the same time, this could mean that the often lamented split between the two DGs would become an even larger and pseudo ‘inter-institutional’ one. To be continued.