Third world aid could be EU budget victim
By Benjamin Fox
Development aid could be the major casualty from EU budget talks, with the European Commission and Parliament fearing that planned spending cuts of 13 percent would leave the EU unable to fulfil promises on aid and the Millennium Development Goals.
Following an initial proposal that included proportional cuts to both agriculture and cohesion spending, opposition led by France and Poland led to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy reinstating funds, but shifting the burden of cuts to other budget headings, including development aid.
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Under the revised text of the seven year budget framework set to start in 2014, put before EU leaders during last week's ill-fated budget summit, the "Global Europe" heading, which covers all EU development spending, would be reduced to 60.7 billion between 2014-2020, a 13 percent cut on the €70 billion of funding tabled by the EU executive.
Under the second Vn Rompuy proposal, development spending would lose a further €5 billion, but with the Emergency Aid Reserve, worth €280 million per year, excluded from the MFF deal.
NGOs are particularly concerned about the prospect of deep cuts to the European Development Fund (EDF) which would get nearly €4 billion less than proposed by the Commission.
German Green MEP Helga Trupel, budget spokesperson for the Green group, echoed their concerns commenting that "EU development spending looks set to be one of the biggest victims of the horse-trading," and describing the move as "short-sighted in the extreme."
European Commission President Jose Barroso is also anxious that development aid could be the major loser from the budget talks.
In a speech on the MFF given to MEPs on Tuesday (27 November), he said that the EU needed to "maintain our commitments to the poorest in the world." However, Barroso has little leverage because of the domestic budget demands facing national governments.
Speaking with EUobserver, a senior EU official commented that: "We see there are 'friends of CAP,' 'friends of Cohesion' or 'better spending,' but aid is really lacking supporters. Aid matters as the EU must respect its promises and contribute to global prosperity for its own good."
Meanwhile, senior Council sources confirmed to this website that, along with the EU's 'Connecting Europe' and 'Horizon 2020' projects, development aid would probably be a big casualty from the budget talks which are expected to run into early 2013.
At the same time, the European Parliament insists that the original commission proposal is the bare minimum acceptable.
In a letter sent last week to the development ministers of the four EU countries which are part of the "G-0.7 group" of nations committed to spend at least 0.7 percent of GNI on aid by 2015, campaigners warned that third world aid could be a casualty in budget talks.
In a reference to the powerful role played by the 15-country "Friends of Cohesion" group led by Poland, the letter urged sympathetic governments to set up a "Friends of Development and Humanitarian Aid" group.
Natalia Alonso, head of Oxfam's EU office, told EUobserver that: "EU development and humanitarian aid is money well spent. It's a smart investment in our common future.
"It cannot be right to protect billions for rich farmers while failing to deliver on Europe's pledge to provide more life-saving medicine and clean water to the world’s poorest people," she added.