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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Next EU aid budget: no cut, but neither a step ahead

Even if it makes no cuts to previous sums, the new EU multi-annual budget (2014-2020) agreed upon on February 8 does not add any extra money to the EU development and humanitarian aid funding, falling to put the EU on track to meet the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI), established by the UN for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals by 2015. At the current level (as of  2011), the EU's aid budget reached a rate of only 0.44% of GNI.
"EU leaders missed their opportunity today to take Europe a big step closer to its promise of spending 0.7% of income on smart aid”, an European aid campaigners- Eloise Todd, Brussels director of advocacy group ONE- said after the negotiation of the new EU budget  for the 2013-2020 period.

However, the sum falls short of the initial proposals made by the European Commission. The European Development Fund (EDF), the main instrument for providing Community development aid in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs), has received under the new budget  € 26, 9 bn,  €3 bn less than in the initial proposal of the European Commission.
In the previous period (2008-2013), the EDF had a budget of €22,7 bn. The EU's assistance to the ACP countries has traditionally been financed outside the EU budget for historical and legal reasons, but its level has been traditionally agreed as part of the overall budget negotiations. However, it was announced that the Commission intends to propose the budgetisation of the EDF as of 2021.

Besides the EDF, the other instruments of foreign aid that do come under the budget, and which represent the largest part of foreign aid - the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), and ten thematic programmes that provide regional and country-based approaches to development- received a total budget with €1.9bn lower than that proposed by the commission, but will still amount to a 3.4% rise based on previous spending levels of €58.7bn.
The DCI covers three components: programmes supporting cooperation with 47 developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Central Asia, the Gulf region (Iran, Iraq and Yemen) and South Africa, as well as programmes of accompanying measures for the 18 African, Caribbean and Pacific(ACP) Sugar Protocol countries, in order to help them adjust following the reform of the EU sugar regime. For the period 2007-2013,  €16.9 billion were allocated to the DCI.
The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) supports the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and addresses mostly the Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. The ENPI had a financial envelope of €11.2 billion for the period 2007-2013.

Even if no aid cuts took place compared to previous years, NGOs see the Union’s deal as disappointing, and lacking ambition prospects for the MDGs goals.  "It's unacceptable for them to wriggle out of their promise to give 0.7% of national income by 2015 to the poorest because there is an economic crisis,"Natalia Alonso, head of Oxfam's EU office said.
Last year, developing countries of the ACP group have expressed their concerns that prospects aid cuts in EU foreign aid funding would lead to the impossibility of reaching the millennium development goal for halving the number of people living in absolute poverty by 2015.

In the explanation of its budget, the Council of the EU explained that the role of External aid is to “ strengthen EU’s cooperation with partners, support the objectives of promoting EU values abroad, projecting EU policies in support of addressing major global challenges, increasing the impact of EU development cooperation, investing in the long-term prosperity and stability of the EU's Neighbourhood, supporting the process of EU enlargement, enhancing European solidarity following natural or man-made disasters, improving crisis prevention and resolution and combating climate change’.

Source: The Guardian, European Commission, Council of the EU