European Briefings on Globalisation, North-South Relations and International Ecology

Was suchen Sie?

The EU Presidency Outlook for Development

Article no: EN20081209-Article-6.10-2008

The EU Presidency Outlook for Development

Within the broader context of a changeover from France?s Euro-activism to the Czech Republic?s Euro-scepticism, both Presidencies will have been at the helm during a period in which the stakes were high for development. Denise Auclair reviews the developmental aspects of the French Presidency in the second half of 2008 and previews to the perspectives under the Czech Presidency in 2009.

Throughout much of the fall, the EU institutions debated the mechanics of the European Commission?s proposal to transfer ?1 billion of unused Common Agricultural Policy subsidies for European farmers, to small-scale Southern farmers in order to boost local agricultural production in light of soaring prices and riots in many developing countries. The Presidency failed to give the Commission proposal decisive support, and discussions in the Council got lost amid the self-interest of Member States. Finally, the funding will come from emergency reserves as well as existing development funds, undermining the initial intent of additional solidarity with those suffering from high food prices.

* From Accra to Doha

Instead, the French Presidency?s biggest success came on the least controversial issue: aid effectiveness. French leadership helped pave the way for a strong EU position that set the frame for the September Accra Agenda for Action, with particular advances on managing aid through developing country systems rather than parallel donor systems; on reducing multiple, conflicting, and often harmful policy conditionalities; and on strengthening democratic accountability to citizens in both North and South.

However, the Presidency did nothing to reverse the tendency to focus on the quality of aid in order to deflect from lagging on promises to increase the quantity of aid. Lip service was duly paid at the annual United Nations General Assembly to the urgency of increased aid to help reach the Millennium Development Goals. But with time ticking for the EU?s commitment to reach 0,51% of its collective gross national income for aid by 2010, no progress was made in requiring all EU Member States to establish clear timetables for aid increases, nor in reversing the backsliding of several key countries, with Italy the most flagrant case. Not only that, but the EU also failed to make headway in its efforts to convince other major world donors to significantly increase their aid, with such promises notably absent at the recent UN conference on Financing for Development in Doha.

* Development without a seat

By mid-autumn, all other events had become subsumed by the breaking global financial crisis, whose entire effects are yet to be felt in developing countries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy took an important step by imposing that the international response to the financial crisis be dealt with by the larger circle of the G20 including the major developing country economies. However, this concern did not extend to the injustices in the global financial system and their impact on development, such as tax havens and tax evasion that deprive developing countries of significant domestic resources for development. Development had no seat at the table in the November Washington summit, and only a last-minute agreement at the Doha Financing for Development conference for a UN conference on the impact of the financial crisis on development allowed for a ray of hope.

More broadly, the French were unable to repeat their Accra performance in Doha. While there was promising dialogue with civil society in the run-up to the conference, including the first-ever invitation of civil society representatives to address Development Ministers at the informal meeting of Ministers in Bordeaux, the EU finally accepted a weak set of conclusions, at times hiding behind US intransigence, for examples on international trade reform. Fundamentally, the EU remained unwilling to recognise the need for urgent reform or stronger efforts to deal with the inequity of representation and power sharing in the financial architecture and decision making in the world today.

The final chapter on the French Presidency will only be written after the conclusion of the ongoing negotiations in Poznan, Poland on the future international response to climate change, with huge consequences for economic development and adaptation to the consequences of climate change in developing countries. Discussions in the Council have grown tougher by the day as EU Member States use the growing financial crisis as an excuse not to impose any additional costs on their industries.

* Czech challenges

In this context, the Czechs will face a challenging environment in their first-ever Presidency. Linking to broader EU debates on energy security and recent increases in global energy prices, the Czechs hope to bring forward what could be an interesting debate on Southern access to local and sustainable energy sources. While the Czechs plan to place the emphasis on development cooperation with countries in South-Eastern and Eastern Europe, including through a debate on the development impact of the EU?s financial instruments targeted towards these regions at the informal meeting of Development Ministers in Prague on 29-30 January. More broadly, the Czech presidency will be responsible for ensuring that Member States put forward clear plans for implementation of the Accra Agenda for Action, in the lead-up to the 18-19 May meeting of Development Ministers in the Council.

The future of EU relations with African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries will also be front and centre. 2009 will see the kick-off of negotiations on the second revision to the 2000-2020 Cotonou Partnership Agreement, in the context of increasing questions as to its relevance in light of the political priority given by the EU to broader regional approaches including the EU-Africa Strategy, as well as of continuing acrimonious negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreements.

In parallel, the mid-term review of the EU?s country strategies for development will begin, with the transparency of the process and ability of civil society to influence the orientation of the strategies towards a meaningful impact for the most vulnerable populations. A promising element of the Presidency is the attention to be given to democratic governance, with a focus on national accountability including the roles of Parliaments and civil society, a debate to be led jointly with Czech civil society.

* Full steam ahead!

Beyond development, the first half of 2009 may also bring major changes in the EU institutions. Still to be resolved is the thorny question of the Irish no to the Lisbon Treaty, while elections will go forward in June for the new European Parliament, bringing with it a new Commission of the same political stripes as the Parliament?s majority. This will raise again larger questions about the place of development in the EU: both in terms of its structural coherence and autonomy vis-à-vis other external policies, as well as its financial means, with the parallel early review of priorities in the 2007-13 EU budget. Steady and full steam ahead!

Denise Auclair is Policy Officer for EU development policy at CIDSE, an alliance of 16 Catholic development agencies working together for poverty eradication and social justice.

Posted: 9 Dec 2008

Recommended citation: Auclair, Denise (2008) ?The EU Presidency Outlook for Development. From French Euro-activism to Czech Euro-scepticism?, World Economy & Development In Brief (WDEV), Luxembourg, 9 Dec (