25th Feb 2021

EU aid policy to target fewer states and good governance

  • Internally Displaced Persons receive aid in Sudan. Sub-Saharan Africa will remain a priority area under the new policy (Photo: UNited Nations Photo)

European aid to poorer countries should focus on fewer recipient states and be increasingly linked to democratic advancements, according to a forthcoming review of the EU's development policy.

The tougher criteria reflect increased strain on European budgets, booming economies in Asia and Latin America, and a shift in donor thinking following the Arab Spring.

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A recent overhaul of the European Neighbourhood Policy also proposed a tightening of funding criteria, after years of EU financial support to North African states failed to bring about democratic reforms.

While future EU development policy will still strive towards poverty reduction, EU aid should be increasingly allocated on the basis of "[recipient] country needs, capacities, resources and commitments", according to a recent draft of the European Commission's strategy paper, seen by EUobserver.

A final draft is scheduled for publication this autumn, with further changes likely to be made between now and then.

"As the recent events in North Africa have clearly shown, achieving good progress in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is not enough. The objectives of development, democracy [governance], human rights and security are unavoidably intertwined," reads the document.

"Democratisation, enhancing the role of parliaments, civil society participation, [and] scrutiny of public action ... therefore, should all be placed at the heart of the cooperation strategies with third countries."

"The EU will implement its policy on governance more strictly and consistently in all its various partnerships and cooperation relationships."

Collectively, EU member states and the commission make up the world's largest donor to developing countries, although a recent review by the OECD showed that many countries including Italy, France and Germany are behind schedule on an international pledge to give 0.7 percent of their gross national income by 2015.

Targeting EU aid

At the same time, emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India have entered the donor arena, pumping billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in Africa in exchange for oil and mineral concessions.

The commission's forthcoming development policy overhaul, which it hopes EU member states will follow, also looks to address this shift by giving less to emerging economies and coordinating donor efforts in fora such as the G20.

The EU needs to focus "its limited resources in a strategic manner", says the paper.

"There are today a number of more advanced developing countries that are already on sustained growth paths ... cooperation with these countries does not necessarily need to be supported with financial transfers."

"In some cases, this process may result in the cessation of EU development assistance, or its diminution, as compared with the current country allocations. This will likely be the case for countries such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa, other G20 members and some middle income countries in Asia and Latin America."

Instead, priority aid will be given to "Neighbourhood" states, Sub-Saharan Africa and the world's least developed countries in future.

The commission is also set to publish draft plans for the EU's next long-term budget this June, with the institution's development strategists hoping to capitalise on the upcoming debate.

"The design of the post-2013 EU multi-annual financial framework and the associated financial instruments falls in 2011-2012. Therefore a direct mechanism exists to ensure the implementation of the updated policy framework," reads the paper.

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