Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Simon Stocker, Director, European Solidarity Towards Equal Participation of People (Eurostep)


  The current proposals of the Commission for re-organising the external services have profound implications for the EC's Development Co-operation. While the rationale for the proposed changes are largely defined as being concerned with the effectiveness of the programme, this hides crucial political differences within the Commission. At issue is the survival of a development co-operation approach with its own rationale, as set out in Title XX of the Treaty on European Union.[4] If the proposals are implemented as defined within the Communication to the Commission on the Reform of the Management of External Assistance, [5] the EC development programme will lose its independent characteristics and be defined by the external political priorities of the European Union.

  There is no doubt that reforms are necessary to ensure that the EC development programme can be effectively implemented. Many of these are addressed in the Communication to the Commission. However, the main problem is political in nature and until the political framework has been clearly defined, it is hard to see how the technical and administrative arrangements can be properly determined. Without clarity at this level the management and administrative reforms take on political dimensions. At best they become substitutes for resolving political differences. At worst they are used to secure specific political objectives without open debate. In either case these reforms are unlikely to succeed in achieving their stated objectives.


  Without doubt there is a conflict within the Commission between perspectives on development co-operation and external political policies, in which the latter is becoming increasingly the dominant determinant. The recent Communication from the Commission on EC Development Policy[6] acknowledges this and is confirmed by the Communication on reforming the management of the external services. The recent personal Communication to the Commission from the Commissioner for External Relations[7] emphasises this further.


  The reforms proposals for the external services will lead to a further transfer of functions from the current DG Development to the extent that its very existence will be questioned. Indeed there are already widespread expectations that by the end of the current Commission reform process DG Development will no longer exist, with its functions being transferred either to the new EUAid office, or to DG External Relations. If this is the case what will become of development policy? Transferring policy functions to the EUAid office would not seem appropriate as the whole basis for establishing the office is that this should be a technical service. Transferring development policy to External Affairs would most certainly ensure that co-operation policy became an instrument of external political policies.

  Such a process also runs counter to the principles on which the recent Commission Communication on Development Policy is based. For poverty reduction to be the over-arching objective of the EC's co-operation with developing countries requires dedicated capacity within the Commission whose principal task is to develop strategies for ensuring this is integrated into the EC's programme. This is unlikely to happen if development co-operation policy was integrated into DG External Relations whose principle objectives are those defined by external political priorities. Should this happen development co-operation would soon become an instrument of the EU's external political policies.

  It should be clearly recognised that should a separate Directorate for development no longer exist it is likely that the Development Committee within the European Parliament would soon follow. This would in itself have far reaching consequences as the Development Committee is arguably the most important body within the EU's institutions in which the independent interests of EU's development policies and programmes can be championed. While Member States and the Development Council are also critical, there will always be a tendency for national interests to more likely prevail.


  The way in which the reforms will effect co-operation through NGOs is symptomatic of the internal agreements. In the first instance the fact that no contracts have been signed for NGO co-financing in the first six months of 2000 cannot be merely attributed to administrative consequences of the reform process; it is more fundamental than that and is a reflection of internal differences within the Commission. Within the Communication on reforming the management of external services it was suggested that relations with civil society could be seen as having a special characteristic that warranted it remaining within DG Development. However it also indicated that further consideration should be given to this. It now appears likely that the management of the financing of NGO activities will indeed be placed in the EUAid office.

  The location of the management of the NGOs budget lines matters considerably. Placed within DG Development the role of civil society will be more easily seen as being related to policy dialogue. In the EUAid office NGOs will become instrumentalised.


  One of the major problems with the current approaches to the effectiveness and efficiency of the EC development programme, and the reforms in management of the external services, is that many of the Commission's previous reforms have sought to provide technical or administrative solutions to what are essentially political problems. The establishment of the Common Service is a graphic example where its establishment was a response to the lack of capacity within the Commission to manage its broad programme. This did not increase capacity, but in many ways produced further duplications by breaking the project cycle.

  The current management reform proposals do start to address many of the technical and administrative weaknesses, but in a context where the overall policy and political framework have not been resolved. Not surprisingly much confusion and uncertainty results. It is therefore crucial that the political policy framework of the Commission's external services is properly addressed so that there can be clarity around the specific roles and functions of the technical services and functions of the Commission.

  On the basis of the Treaty for European Union which establishes the legal basis for the three specific elements of the EU's external actions—trade, political external relations, and development co-operation—the following steps need to be taken:

  1.  The specific rationale and objectives of the three pillars of the EU's external actions need to be clearly defined, including the motivation for those actions, their orientation and the specific policies on which they are based. This will provide the basis on which consistency between the EU's different elements of its external activities, as laid down in Article 3, will be achieved.

  2.  For development co-operation its independent nature as an independent pillar of the EU's external actions is established in Title XX of the EU's Treaty. The EU's Development Co-operation is orientated specifically towards developing countries and defines the EU's approaches and objectives towards them. While this includes political and trade elements it is derived primarily from development policy objectives and not from the political and trade interests of the EU. The recent Communication from the Commission on development policy provides the latest opportunity to develop these further. The over-riding objective of poverty reduction in developing countries is a central defining element of this part of the EU's actions, and on which the strategies for the EC's co-operation programmes with developing countries should be drawn.

  3.  To enable this to be realised requires a distinct Directorate responsible for this task, which has equal status with those of External Relations and of Trade. DG Development needs to be retained with a Commissioner for Development charged with defending its interests within the College.

  4.  DG Development should be responsible not only for developing EC policies and strategies for their implementation through the EC development programme, but also for the programming process in all developing countries, not only those within ACP countries. Responsibility for developing countries outside the ACP group should therefore be transferred into DG Development.

  5.  The capacity of DG Development needs to be increased to enable the EU's development policies to be translated into practical strategies that are integrated into the EC's programme. This does not mean that the Commission needs to necessarily duplicate expertise that exists in other institutions, but it does require the expertise to draw on this and to develop effective strategies for its integrating into EC programmes. Such capacity is required both in delegations, and in Brussels.

  6.  Since the EC's aid programme is primarily concerned with implementing its co-operation programme with developing countries, the Commissioner for Development must have the political responsibility for its implementation, and therefore for the EUAid office. This should not be seen as being the same as the role of the Chief Executive Officer, which is more equated with the role of a Director General within the Commission.

  7.  The management of the technical services need to be organised on the basis of sound and effective management principles in which the mandates are clearly defined, and accountability is linear.

  8.  Decentralising more decision making to the delegations is necessary, but this also requires clarity being established on the management of delegations and their personnel so that accountability for decisions taken is clear.

Simon Stocker,

Director European Solidarity Towards Equal Participation of People (Eurostep)

June 2000

4   Commission of the European Communities, European Union consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community incorporating the changes made by the Treaty of Amsterdam, 1997. Back

5   Commission of the European Communities, Communication to the Commission on the Reform of the Management of External Assistance, May 2000. Back

6   Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament-The European Community's Development Policy Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament-The European Community's Development Policy, April 2000. Back

7   Communication from Chris Patten to the European Commission aimed at engaging a debate on the EU's external relations, June 2000. Back

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