10 The European Voluntary Humanitarian
Aid Corps |
14150/12 + ADDs 1-2
|Draft Council Regulation establishing the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps
|Legal base||Article 214 (5) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV
|Basis of consideration||Minister's letter of 29 November 2012
|Previous Committee Report||HC 86-xviii (2012-13), chapter 6 (31 October 2012); also see (32292) 17065/10: HC 428-xii (2010-11), chapter 12 (12 January 2011)
|Discussion in Council||To be determined
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
|Committee's decision||Not cleared; further information requested
10.1 Since 1992, EU humanitarian aid has been managed by the Directorate-General
for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, which was more commonly
known as DG ECHO. The EU (Commission plus the Member States) is
one of the world's biggest providers of humanitarian aid funding.
Since 1992, operations directed by ECHO have channelled aid to
regions in crisis in more than 85 countries.
10.2 Article 214 TFEU introduced, for the first time,
humanitarian aid as a policy in its own right in the EC Treaty.
As defined in Article 214 TFEU, the EU's operations in the field
of humanitarian aid are intended to provide ad hoc assistance
and relief for people in third countries who are victims of natural
or man-made disasters, in order to meet the humanitarian needs
resulting from these different situations; EU and Member States
measures "shall complement and reinforce each other".
10.3 Article 214 TFEU reiterates the principles of
humanitarian aid, these being compliance with the principles of
international law and the principles of impartiality, neutrality
and non-discrimination. EU humanitarian aid operations must be
coordinated and consistent with those of international organisations
and bodies, in particular those forming part of the United Nations
10.4 Article 214 (5) TFEU refers specifically to
a "European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps" (EVHAC),
whose objective is "to establish a framework for joint contributions
from young Europeans to the humanitarian aid operations of the
Union" (Article 214(5) TFEU). The European Parliament and
the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with
the ordinary legislative procedure, shall determine the rules
and procedures for the operation of the Corps.
The draft Council Regulation
10.5 We considered this draft Council Regulation
at our meeting on 31 October. It takes forward Commission Communication
17065/10, "How to express EU citizen's solidarity through
volunteering: First Reflections on a European Voluntary Humanitarian
Aid Corps"; this sets out the DG ECHO and Member States'
consultation and discussion in Council working groups, with the
aim of tabling legislative proposals to Council and to the European
Parliament in 2012, along with the guiding principles, gaps in
the current system and key conditions under which EVHAC must operate
(details in paragraphs 6.05-6.19 of our previous Report).
10.6 The May 2011 EcoFin Council discussed and welcomed
this Communication in its conclusions, "but underlined that
such a corps should be cost-effective, should build upon existing
national and international voluntary schemes without duplicating
them, and be focused on addressing concrete needs and gaps in
the humanitarian field."
10.7 In the specific Conclusions on EVHAC, the Council:
the importance of increasing the professionalism of humanitarian
aid actors and the need to address their safety and security,
in particular in complex emergencies;
emphasised the need to set clear requirements
for the identification, selection, training and deployment of
acknowledged the need to support local
capacities in disaster prevention, preparedness, humanitarian
response and post-disaster settings;
underlined that EVHAC should not encroach
upon the Commission's existing humanitarian aid and civil protection
budget and that it should be based on a thorough cost-benefit
underlined that EVHAC should be cost-effective,
build upon existing national and international voluntary schemes
without duplicating them and, as part of a global approach, be
focused on addressing concrete needs and gaps in the humanitarian
underlined that EVHAC can make a useful
contribution to the European and international humanitarian assistance
by focusing its activities on supporting existing local humanitarian
and civil protection organisations, in cooperation with recipient
underlined that EVHAC should not be set
up as an operational humanitarian or civil protection organisation
in its own right;
emphasised the need for EVHAC to provide
added value to the EU humanitarian assistance and its beneficiaries,
especially in pre- and post-crisis contexts, as well as to increase
awareness raising and visibility of EU assistance;
said that, alongside the results of the
preparatory action, the Impact Assessment, and the on-going consultations,
its Conclusions should guide the Commission in the assessment
of the different options with regard to the framework and management
structure of EVHAC.
10.8 A June 2011 European Parliament Declaration
was enthusiastic but lacked any of these qualifications (see paragraphs
6.18 and 6.19 of our previous Report).
10.9 The Library of the European Parliament also
"On the other hand, from the Eurosceptic side,
there is opposition to setting up EVHAC on the basis that it will
duplicate the work of existing agencies. In this view, humanitarian
aid should be left to trained professionals and must be provided
by non-governmental organisations and the United Nations."
10.10 The subsequent EU Aid Volunteers initiative
is based on a widespread consultation around six identified problems:
lack of a structured EU approach towards volunteering; poor visibility
of EU humanitarian action and solidarity with people in need;
lack of consistent identification and selection mechanisms across
Member States; insufficient availability of qualified volunteers
for humanitarian aid; shortcomings in the surge capacity of humanitarian
aid; and weak capacity of organisations receiving volunteers.
10.11 Under its proposal, the Commission would develop
standards for the recruitment and preparation of volunteers, their
deployment and their management, including duty of care and minimum
requirements on subsistence and accommodation. Organisations
that would like to select, prepare and deploy EU Aid Volunteers
would have to be certified for compliance with these standards.
Organisations awarded contracts in response to Commission calls
for proposals would identify and select volunteers for training
after an assessment of the needs in third countries. A Register
of EU Aid Volunteers would be managed by the Commission. A certification
mechanism would also be established for organisations eligible
to receive volunteers. The Commission would support capacity
building actions of receiving organisations to ensure effective
management of the volunteers and sustainable impact of their work.
The Commission would promote the EU Aid Volunteers initiative
and develop a communication action plan, which would be implemented
by all sending and receiving organisations. The proposed budget
is 239.1 million over the period 2014-20.
10.12 The Minister (Lynne Featherstone) said that
the UK had provided input through discussions at COHAFA (the relevant
Council working party), as well as the 25 May 2011 Council Conclusions.
She was concerned that the current proposal was not yet informed
by the results of the pilots launched to guide the eventual shape
of the fully-fledged initiative. Her starting point for negotiations
would be to consider whether the volunteering programme would
be the most cost-effective way of addressing the problems that
had been identified, and to limit the number and scope of the
initiative's activities to those where needs were clear and pilot
programmes had been evaluated and given a positive assessment.
The Minister said that she would press for lessons learned in
the pilot projects to be taken into account in the elaboration
of the initiative's recruitment, training and deployment activities;
and "as a minimum" want any EU Aid Volunteers initiative
to: respond to identified need and be complementary to existing
initiatives in this field within the international system; offer
value for money; have objectives grounded in humanitarian principles,
including a focus on robust outcome measures such as lives saved;
provide for sufficient Duty of Care for those deployed; and undergo
thorough independent evaluation prior to any decision on any continuation
of the initiative.
10.13 On the question of Subsidiarity, the
"The establishment of the European Voluntary
Humanitarian Aid Corps is specifically provided for under Article
214(5) TFEU. However, the UK will wish to study carefully the
proposed objectives and planned activities and consider where
the EU will bring added value."
10.14 The Minister also commented as follows:
"The precise scope of activities of EU Aid Volunteers
will depend on the separate budget negotiations, but the proposed
activities are in line with humanitarian aid principles and the
European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid. The initiative will complement
and support activities already carried out across the EU by individual
Member States and humanitarian aid organisations in various forms.
"The UK has provided input through discussions
at COHAFA, as well as the 25 May 2011 Council Conclusions.
10.15 There is no doubt about the legal base in the
Treaties for this initiative, or about the need for some sort
of arrangements to improve the present situation. But it seemed
extraordinary that a 239 million initiative was not yet
informed by the results of the pilots launched to guide its eventual
shape; and thus impossible at that juncture to come to any conclusion
other than that it appears to have been pushed through to meet
an artificial 2012 deadline.
10.16 We also found it odd that, with the COHAFA
negotiations already under way, the Minister said that UK policy
objectives were still being finalised. We therefore asked her
to write to us when they had been finalised:
out what they are, and explaining how she is planning to achieve
her "minimum" and ensure that there are provisions for
the initiative to be evaluated and time-limited;
providing information about the pilot
projects in question, what the results were and what the implications
were for the initiative; and
providing information about what had
transpired by then in the negotiations.
10.17 In the meantime we continued to retain the
document under scrutiny.
The Minister's letter of 29 November
10.18 The Minister responds as follows on UK policy
"The UK policy objectives in the negotiations
in the Council are to ensure that the initiative is evaluated
and is time-limited. The Committee asked what our "Minimum"
is and if it were achievable. The UK aims to achieve the following:
- "limit the initiative's
scope and activities to those for which the Commission can demonstrate
a need and evidence base from the Pilot Projects;
- "ensure the initiative offers value for
money, safety and security for the volunteers and is grounded
in agreed humanitarian principles;
- "link the continuation of the initiative
to independent evaluation; and
- "only grant the power to make delegated/implementing
acts where the Commission can demonstrate that this would be the
most effective course of action for the initiative.
"The UK is working to deliver its objectives
through engagement with like minded Member States and active participation
in negotiations in the Council Working Group on Humanitarian Aid
(COHAFA), leading to amendments to the proposal that satisfy these
objectives. The UK will push for strong language on independent
evaluation of the initiative, and for a time-limit to the current
initiative. The UK has informed its position through consultation
with several UK and European NGOs."
10.19 With regard to the pilot projects, the Minister
"There are two waves of pilot projects which
are being funded in advance of the fully fledged initiative.
The majority of first wave projects have been completed, and the
second wave will run on into 2013. The pilots have tested out
different approaches to deploying volunteers with different levels
of prior experience to support humanitarian activities. The primary
focus has been on supporting disaster preparedness and capacity
building, rather than emergency response. Many NGOs and national
Red Cross Societies have participated, including three from the
UK (Save the Children, Voluntary Services Overseas and the British
"In response to a push from the UK and other
Member States for further evidence from the Pilot Projects, the
Commission has since produced and shared fact sheets on eight
Pilot Projects. The Commission will hold a further session on
pilots during the 11 December COHAFA meeting."
10.20 Concerning what has transpired in the negotiations,
the Minister says:
"The negotiations on this proposal are continuing.
There has been one discussion in COHAFA on the substance of the
proposal covering the first two Chapters. After the next COHAFA
discussion on 28 November, the Presidency will circulate a revised
version of the proposal taking into account Member State comments.
COHAFA will then consider the revised version of the proposal."
10.21 With regard to the financial implications,
the Minister says:
"The proposed scope of the EU Aid Volunteers
initiative will be affected by the outcome of the current negotiations
on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-20. This will
not be finalised before spring 2013 at the earliest, but it is
likely that the financial level of the External Actions part of
the EU Budget, which will fund the EU Aid Volunteers, will be
significantly reduced from the Commission's current proposal."
10.22 Finally, with reference to the European Parliament,
the Minister says:
"The European Parliament's Development Committee
has appointed Michèle Striffler MEP (French European People's
Party) as rapporteur for the proposal. The Committee has held
one discussion to date."
10.23 We thank the Minister for this further
information, which demonstrates how far there is still to go in
demonstrating that this initiative is justified and, if so, is
properly set up.
10.24 In the first instance, we would be grateful
if, after the next COHAFA meeting, she would let us know:
what the Pilot Projects have shown thus far concerning:
- a demonstrable need that
is not being met already, especially by experienced NGOs, and
which would be met by volunteers;
- what issues have been identified concerning
the safety and security of prospective volunteers;
- how the initiative would offer value for money;
the initiative has been revised via the Presidency proposal to
which she refers.
10.25 In the meantime we shall continue to retain
the document under scrutiny.
10.26 We are also drawing this chapter of our
Report to the attention of the International Development Committee.
55 See http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm for full
information on DG ECHO. Back
Also see (32292) 17065/10: HC 428-xii (2010-11), chapter 12 (12
January 2011). Back
The full Council Conclusions on EVHAC are available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/122055.pdf. Back
See http://libraryeuroparl.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/european-voluntary-humanitarian-aid-corps-briefing/. Back
See our previous Report for a fuller summary: HC 86-xviii (2012-13),
chapter 6 (31 October 2012). Back
See paras 6.30 and 6.31 of our previous Report for the Minister's
detailed analysis and comments. Back
See headnote: HC 86-xviii (2012-13), chapter 6 (31 October 2012). Back