EU development policy at a crossroad, without a compass?

Categories: Category “News from EADI Category “EADI Major News Category “Development Aid of the Non-DAC Donors (Category “Working Groups)

24 Apr 2019

Launch event of the EADI Working Group “The European Union as a Development Actor”, Ljubljana, 4 April

According to Working Group co-convenor Maja Bucar, the European Union (EU) is widely considered to be an important actor in international development policy. EU policy-makers take pride in the EU being “the world’s largest donor” and the recent OECD-DAC Peer Review (2018) emphasized the EU’s “leadership” in development cooperation.

At the same time, as Bucar highlighted, EU development is plagued by many challenges. Member states continue to guard their own development policies. Trade, migration and security interests seem to trump ‘pure’ development goals. New powers such as China pursue alternative development agenda’s while African countries display a growing assertiveness towards the EU.

In the first part of the workshop panellists illustrated how EU Development policy and discourse has undergone considerable changes and faces many challenges. Contributions by Sarah Delputte, Iliana Olivié and Niels Keijzer demonstrated how thinking on development has evolved from treating development policy as an independent and self-standing area of EU external policy towards emphasizing the ‘inevitable’ linkages or ‘nexuses’ between different policy areas, including environment/climate change, migration, trade or security.

Sarah Delputte (Ghent University) opened the debate presentating the several challenges EU development policy is currently facing, such as  Policy failures, epistemic changes and power shifts. Shequestioned whether these changes are signs of a paradigmatic shift or rather a reinvention of the wheel. Delputte emphasized that the imagination of alternatives as proposed by postdevelopment proponents can serve to enrich the debate.

Iliana Olivié (Real Instituto Elcano) contributed findings from a recent study on solidarity and security in the EU discourse on aid. She explored the main motives for providing aid and highlighted that the EU narrative on aid has become more securitised than at the beginning of the century. This is most notably observable in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, where domestic public opinion seems to play in important role in shaping the discourse.

Niels Keijzer (German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik) placed close scrutiny on the proposed Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). After providing an overview on the EU’s various thematic and geographic instruments for financing, Keijzer stated that the official EU development policy discourse in recent years has moved from poverty reduction to the pursuit of mutual interests. With this having become especially apparent in the 2016 EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy and the 2017 European Consensus on Development, Keijzer then outlined the NDICI as an instrument intended to govern several types of cooperation (grant-based, as well as blended financing).

The second part of the workshop brought together perspectives from the Czech Republic and Slovenia as well as reflections regarding challenges linked to the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).

Uroš Vajgl, Head of International Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Slovenia, gave an overview on development cooperation and humanitarian assistance of Slovenia and outlined the key documents, both with regards to strategic as well as to legislative frameworks. Vaigl stressed that according to the Slovenian view the principle of inclusiveness in the NDICI negotiations should be strongly advocated.

Albin Keuc, Head of NGO Platform SLOGA, spoke on civil society spaces and the ability to enjoy civic freedoms. He pointed to the shrinking of civic space, a trend that has been observed from 2004 globally. According to Keuc, this trend has been accelerated by the financial crisis, consequently also to the extent that 120 laws were adopted in 60 countries between 2012 and 2012 restricting civil liberties and thereby shrinking civic space.

Finally, Ondřej Horký-Hlucháň (Institute of International Relations Prague) presented Czech positions on NDICI and EU-ACP. He pointed out that from the Czech point of view there were no major objections voiced to the formulation of the NDICI mandate Horký-Hlucháň emphasized that EU external action, in contrast to bilateral tools, is practically invisible in Czech media despite huge budgets.

The workshop was kindly hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, alongside the latest meeting of the EADI Executive Committee in Ljubljana

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