EU Development Commissioner Piebalgs Speech on the upcoming challenges for Development Policy – Focus on Africa-EU Partnership

EU website. At the occasion of the meeting of the Committee on Development of the European Parliament held on the 2nd of June 2010, the EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, made a speech on the main upcoming challenges for EU Development Policy.
Mr Piebalgs emphasised that 2010 was a year of opportunity, and considered Africa-EU Partnership as one of the most important milestones to achieve, but also one of three main reasons for optimism in EU capacity to make a real difference on poverty alleviation.

“Honourable Chair, Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is over 50 years since the establishment of the first relationships between the then European Communities and developing countries – the overseas territories in the original Treaty of Rome. Five decades of development. It is 50 years ago this year that a wave of independence first swept across the continent of Africa – a watershed from which has emerged the African Union and the more modern, vibrant Africa that we know today.

And it is over 40 years since the publication of the Lester B Pearson’s Report to the World Bank, which first proposed an aid target for the developed world of 0,7% GNI. The aim was to have achieved this by 1975 – four decades before the current target date of 2015.

It seems that in development policy, decades can easily slip by. We have no more time to lose – 2010 is a pivotal year for development. As I said in my hearing before this Committee, I am determined to make a real difference on poverty alleviation in the world’s poorest countries during my mandate. That is why my objective today is to set out a prospectus for a new decade for development.

I want to forge a political alliance with this Committee, to help that European Development policy is a matter of pride to all of us. Perhaps more than in any other sector, development reflects Europe’s shared values and common willingness to implement them effectively. I set out my vision in detail in a letter which I sent to you last week. But there are three basic reasons why I believe we can make a difference. I still see 2010 as a year of opportunity. I thus take pleasure in introducing the most important milestones that I shall be looking to achieve this year.

The first opportunity is the new development policy framework in the Lisbon Treaty. Reduction and in the long term eradication of poverty is now our primary and explicit Treaty objective. And development rightly finds its place at the head and heart of EU external action worldwide.

The framework for halving world poverty has already been set in the Millennium Development Goals and I am convinced that they can still be achieved if we have the necessary political courage. Good progress has been made towards the headline goal of reducing poverty. But a positive message means nothing if you are one of the 1.4 billion people who still live below the poverty line.

It is in this MDG framework that EU Member States have made promises to increase their aid to developing countries. Our challenge is to convince Member States to increase aid further. Europeans are engaged – polls consistently show strong support for development across all Member States. This was undiminished last year, despite the economic difficulties.

My challenge is therefore to secure political engagement – the support of this House as well as in capitals across Europe. Keeping our promises is not only feasible, despite renewed economic difficulties in Europe, it remains as important as ever. Poverty is like climate change – a long term problem which often impacts most on those least responsible. It is equally in our interest to aid, not only morally, but to ensure security for our citizens, and promote economic growth.

I want to make the case for keeping aid promises based on aid successes. I want to make a real difference by ensuring that every Euro of EU taxpayer’s money spent on aid has a real effect. This means looking more and more at how the aid granted can create leverage, so that every euro granted brings 10, 20 or 100 in growth and jobs in the developing world.

It means more and more focusing the aid granted on areas where there is a real advantage in acting at Community level.

We need therefore to look beyond aid amounts to the catalytic effects aid can have on societies – on infrastructure to enable jobs and growth in the developing world, on food security, in health systems and in schooling.

I also want to make the case for keeping promises by showing how EU development policy can make aid more effective. By ensuring coordination and consultation between the Commission and the 27 Member States we can get better value for every Euro of aid.

By the end of this mandate I want to have made real progress towards single EU Country Aid Strategy Documents for every recipient country, as we have now succeeded to do for Haiti.

I also want to make the case for keeping promises through policy coherence. The impact which our policies can have on developing countries’ economies is huge. An increase of 1% of GDP in the economy is worth much more than significant increases in aid.

Coordination, consultation and complementarity – all words from the new Treaty. In short, the Lisbon Treaty gives us the tool to turn hope into expectation. It turns our hope of tackling poverty into the expectation of an EU development policy which will deliver the Millennium Development Goals.

It turns our hopes of making aid more effective into an expectation of a coordinated EU response. And it turns our hopes that other EU policies will not harm developing countries into the expectation of genuine policy coherence for development.

The second reason why I am optimistic we can make a difference is our partnership with Africa. The continent-to-continent relationship which we have with the African Union is unique to the EU.

It provides a framework which goes beyond “donorship” to a partnership of equals, not least in efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring inward investment, growth and jobs. The Africa-EU relationship also goes beyond development, so that we discuss peace and security, human rights, transparency and taxation.

And above all, I want to forge a new impetus to ensuring that aid acts as a catalyst to good governance and the respect of human rights. We have to accept the reality, that without good governance, the effect of aid is limited, and in some cases even counter-productive, particularly in resource rich countries.

The third reason why we can make a difference is sustainable development. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of this generation and the developing world risks being the worst affected.

Furthermore, as the developing world, and in particularly sub-Saharan Africa, is expected by the UN to be one of the main drivers of global population growth in the next decades, ensuring development and growth in the LDCs presents huge challenges in terms of preventing spiralling carbon emissions from these countries.

There are however, many positive opportunities.

At the Copenhagen Conference, the EU committed major funding to support climate change funding in the developing world. As part of a future agreement, additional funding is also highly likely.

Properly used, this can provide the developing world with many opportunities for growth. In particular, it is notable that many areas in the developing world represent ideal places to develop renewable energy, whether hydro, or solar PV. Same for many parts of Africa, investments can be undertaken to produce biofuels in a sustainable manner; for example, on land unused for agriculture.

By combining highly leveraged EU development funds to promote investments in renewable electricity in LDCs and equally using the funds committed as a consequence of the Copenhagen Accord, a real difference can be made, also providing an additional, very important development advantage; insulating developing countries from the ruinous economic effects of oil price volatility.

The EU and Africa in particular need to seize this opportunity, developing an EU-Africa Partnership to progressively provide sustainable electricity to every African citizen. I am looking therefore to make concrete progress on these issues in a Communication on Climate Change and Development, together with my colleague Commissioner Hedegaard, towards October this year.

So Europe has three reasons to be optimistic on development: the Lisbon Treaty, the EU-Africa relationship and sustainable development.

Dear Honourable Members,

Let me set out the specific initiatives which I propose to take in the months ahead, in addition to the one on climate change that I have just mentioned.

First and foremost, I want to follow through on the 12-point action plan in support of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the Commission in April. This aims to be the blueprint for Europe’s position at the UN Summit this September. I look forward to working with this House to secure the strongest political endorsement for Europe taking a leading role. I would like to thank in particular Michael Cashman for his work on the report which this Committee has just finalised.

We have also been testing the ideas with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Asia (at the ASEM Development Ministers’ meeting) and in Africa (at the College to College meeting next week).

I am pushing equally hard with Ministers in the Council and hope that the June European Council will wholeheartedly endorse our ideas. They will form the backbone of Europe’s contribution on development at the G8 and G20 Summits in Canada.

My next major policy push will be a new phase in the EU-Africa partnership. The EU-Africa Summit this November will set out an action plan for the two continents for the next years. I want this to go beyond just building on past successes. The partnership between Europe and Africa is already the “G80” of today, with around 1,5 billion people represented at the Summit table.

The Commission will show how this framework can be applied to the challenges of tomorrow. These elements will be the guidelines for the Communication on the review of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy to be issued later this year.

In addition, I shall be focusing on how we can get more benefits from the new external relations opportunities flowing from the Lisbon Treaty and the new Action Service. Once again I would like to state clearly that neither Baroness Ashton nor I view this as a threat to development policy. It is an opportunity; our primary and overriding objective will be poverty alleviation. In fact this is our key external relations objective here, ending poverty is the best weapon we have to fight insecurity, terrorism, piracy, ensure the respect of human rights, good governance, and provide opportunities for economic and commercial growth.

We need however, to make sure that the different elements of our external relations strategy are pushing together in the same direction, and that the EU as a whole works together; I shall be starting work in this area with two Communications together with Baroness Ashton; on a Coherent EU External Relations and Development Strategy for the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. This should be no surprise as we implement the action plan in support of the MDGs, given the intention to focus on those countries which are most off-track as well on situations of fragility. We have, above all, to make sure that the aid spent in these areas has real effects, and gives value for money.

In this respect, in the second half of this year, I intend to issue a green paper on Budget support.

As you know, this has become the instrument of choice in recent years, encouraging partner governments to take ownership of their own development. Almost half of the current European Development Fund national funding is already now disbursed in this way, I want an open and honest debate among stakeholders to check that this instrument is adapted to the new development paradigm.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, this leads me to my final point. We have entered a new development era and that brings with it the need to review the European Development Consensus during the course of 2011.

We need a development policy adapted to the new economic realities. Partner countries across the world have been hard hit by the food, fuel and financial crises. And in the EU, delivering on past promises is made doubly difficult by pressure on public expenditure.

We need a development policy adapted to the new geo-politics. This means renewed political consensus in Europe, including with the new European Parliament, new Ministers and new EU leaders.

And we need a development policy adapted to the new decade. Reducing poverty by 50% by 2015 remains realistic. But this is the easy half. Poverty eradication, the ultimate goal of the EU, will be even more of a challenge. That is why I want to start now to prepare the policy thinking for this new decade for development.

Thank you for your attention.”

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