4th Dec 2023

EU states spending development aid on themselves, report finds

  • Only 40 percent of ODA has actually reached the poorest 40 percent of countries, according to the findings (Photo: UNited Nations Photo)
Listen to article

Almost €14bn of European official development assistance ends up in a handful of rich member states — instead of going towards low-income nations in need around the globe, a new report finds.

The study, published Wednesday (18 October), say the funds are being diverted to hosting Ukrainian refugees as so-called 'in-donor' refugee costs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The AidWatch report was drafted by Concord, a confederation of NGOs working on development assistance.

In a statement, Concord said such costs means many EU states are in the "peculiar position of being the primary recipients of their own aid."

This is specially the case of a number of eastern European countries, it found.

And it says a handful of EU states are using almost 50 percent or more of their reported official development aid (ODA) on themselves by including in-donor refugee costs.

Among those are Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ireland and Poland, mostly due to funding to support refugees from Ukraine, says the study.

And Malta reported more than 80 percent of its ODA share as in-donor refugee costs, notes the report.

Not all EU states count in-donor refugee costs as a share of ODA. Luxembourg opted out. So too has Belgium, Hungary and Slovakia, says the report.

Specifically, the study found €13.9bn out of a total €84bn of ODA reported in 2022 by the 27 member states went to in-donor refugee costs.

"It's [in-donor refugee costs] actually not measuring really the effort of the country towards foreign countries," said Salvatore Nocerino, a policy advisor at Concord.

"Of course, it's necessary to pay support to asylum seekers and refugees, but this is just not the same thing as official development assistance. They need to be two separate things," he said.

Instead, Concord calls on ODA to support economic development and welfare, as well as reduce inequalities between and within countries.

These countries span low to middle income countries, and territories, as compiled by the OECD, a Paris-based international organisation.

But Concord says only 40 percent of ODA has actually reached the poorest 40 percent of countries. It says €20bn — more than €1 in every €5 — "is falsely claimed as aid, never reaching the communities it's meant to serve."

For its part, a European Commission spokesperson said in-donor refugee costs are ODA eligible within strict rules and limitations set by the OECD's DAC secretariat. And they say reporting is a matter for member states.

"The EU Institutions do not report any in-donor refugee costs. However, the EU's position has always been that in-donor refugee costs are an integral part of ODA and should be eligible, within agreed limits and definitions," said the spokesperson.

EU development aid to finance armies in Africa

The EU commission proposes to start financing militaries to help "partner countries in their development" as part of a larger policiy to stop migration to Europe.

Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head

Afghanistan is a "forever emergency" rendered worse by an isolated country intent on dismantling human rights, says UN refugee agency (UNHCR) representative for the country, Leonard Zulu.


Why EU's €18m for Israel undermines peace

The optics of a nine-fold increase of annual funding for Israel, in the middle of its devastating military campaign in Gaza, stands in contrast with the attempted suspension, delaying and constraining of EU development aid for the Palestinians.

Latest News

  1. Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head
  2. EU public procurement reform 'ineffective', find auditors
  3. COP28 warned over-relying on carbon capture costs €27 trillion
  4. Optimising Alzheimer's disease health care pathways across Europe
  5. Georgian far-right leader laughs off potential EU sanctions
  6. The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained
  7. EU-China summit and migration files in focus This WEEK
  8. COP28 debates climate finance amid inflated accounting 'mess'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us