18th Mar 2018

Mixed record on EU donor aid transparency

  • The European Commission's branch on development and cooperation (Devco) is among the world's most transparent in donor aid. (Photo: European Commission)

A donor aid transparency index paints a mixed picture on how the European Commission disperses its aid funds outside the EU.

The study, published on Monday (1 October), by the London-based Publish What You Fund campaign, ranked the commission’s directorate on development and cooperation (Devco) as among the most transparent in a list of 72 donor organisations.

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Devco’s annual budget for 2011 was over € 7 billion, said the campaign.

“This evaluation from an independent and respected organisation is also timely as discussions regarding the next EU budget, including aid, are on-going,” wrote development commissioner Andris Piebalgs on his blog.

But the same study placed the commission’s directorate on enlargement (DG enlargement) as near the bottom of the pile.

The pro-transparency campaign ranked donors by organisation, country and activity by using a set of 43 different transparency indicators.

Measures included those outlined by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), a voluntary initiative to disclose donor aid that the commission signed up to in October 2011.

DG enlargement, which is charged to overlook the expansion of the European Union, has a €5.7 billion budget for 2011 to 2013 to help finance potential EU member states through its Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

The directorate had an overall score of 35 percent and ranked 43 out of 72 donors.

“DG Devco is publishing its information and its good improvements from last year from ninth to fifth [ranking] and we don’t understand why DG enlargement isn’t following suit,” a spokeswoman from the pro-transparency campaign told EUobserver.

She pointed out that DG enlargement’s data is scattered and fragmented.

“We also know that their own commissioner has a lot of problems standing up in front of the European Parliament and telling them how this money has been spent,” she said.

Peter Stano, the commission’s enlargement spokesperson, told this website that the directorate “is constantly improving access to information on pre–accession assistance.”

He pointed out that the site had been revamped to make the data more readily accessible but noted that “some crucial elements of the information made available by us on IPA were completely missing in the analysis”.

At 47 overall, the study also placed near the bottom the commission’s Foreign Policy Instruments Service. The service is a department inside the commission that co-manages, among other things, crisis response programmes along with the EU’s foreign service.

“This is a new service and its just been set up and we think they should be making greater efforts to be much more transparent to how their funds are being spent,” said the campaign spokeswoman.

The rankings may cast a shadow over the on-going EU budget negotiations. Member states in July had recommended the EU slash spending in external policy for next year’s budget by 17 percent or € 1.03 billion.

The European Parliament will vote on the member state budget amendments on Thursday.

EU member state Malta ranks at the very bottom, just below China, followed by Hungary, Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria.

At the top is the UK’s department for International Development, followed by the World Bank and the Netherlands.

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