Current developments in European Union development co-operation policy
In the spring of 2012 the development ministers approved the new development co-operation policy strategy “Agenda for Change”, which takes into account changed circumstances in the world and foresees that in the future the European Union will focus on giving aid first and foremost to the poorest countries and European Union’s neighbouring regions. In the case of middle-income countries with rising economies, a differentiated approach will be used in the future, moving from traditional development aid towards an equal partnership. In each country, the EU will focus on a maximum of three priority sectors that are of key importance to the country’s long-term development. One goal of this approach is to concentrate EU resources and increase the effectiveness of its activities, while another is to increase the capability of the developing country and put an end to its reliance on aid funds. It is the opinion of EU member states that responsibility for a country’s development falls first and foremost on that country’s own government. The sectors of key importance are good administrative practice (including democracy, human rights, gender equality, and the fight against corruption), social protection and services (education and health care), a business environment that facilitates entrepreneurship, regional integration, agriculture, and clean energy. What is innovative today is the results-based principle, by which the countries that have made the most progress with reforms and the countries that promote human rights and good administrative practice are given an opportunity to get more support (the “more for more” approach).
Within the Agenda For Change, the European Union and its member states accepted the responsibility to more effectively co-ordinate their development co-operation activities and align their action plans with the development strategies of the target countries in order to avoid duplicating work. In addition, a goal was set to better connect various EU policies so that they would be more development-friendly. The EU will try to take advantage, more than previously, of new partnerships, especially with the private sector, whose skills, knowledge, and capital flow can help to achieve sustainable economic growth in partner countries. Estonia, for its part, has always emphasised the added value of using innovative information and communication technology.
Better involvement of EU expertise in EU development co-operation
Estonia and the other member states, mainly those that joined in 2004 or later, work actively in the name of finding a better way to utilise their reform or transition experiences in the EU’s updated development co-operation. In the spring of 2012 the European Commission distributed a report on this matter, the goal of which was to gather together the European Union’s best practices and approaches that come from the entire European Union’s unique enlargement processes and Neighbourhood Policy experiences. In January of 2013 the European Union Foreign Affairs Council also approved Twinning and TAIEX.
Budget for European Union development co-operation, humanitarian aid, and external activities for 2014-2020
Tense EU budget negotiations drew to a close in February 2013 and was approved by the Parliament in December 2013. The European Commission and most of the member states wanted to increase the development co-operation budget for the next period by 17% so that the European Union would fulfil the internationally accepted obligation to spend 0.7% of the GNP on development co-operation by the year 2015. The result of the negotiations was that the budget rose by 3% compared with the current period and the size of the budget is now 58.705 billion euros. The size of the budget of the non-budgetary European Development Fund will remain the same as in the current period, 30.506 billion euros. The aforementioned fund, which is meant to support small islands in the African and Caribbean Seas and the Pacific Ocean, will be absorbed by the EU budget for external funds and development co-operation before the next budgetary period of 2020-2027. The European Union’s humanitarian aid activities are also funded by the European Development Fund. For responding to emergency situations, the Emergency Aid Reserve has also been created, which has an annual budget planned of 280 million euros for the period of 2014-2020. In 2013 a total of 661 million euros are earmarked for EU humanitarian aid, of which 52% is targeted towards helping countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The reserve for extraordinary operations is 146.238 billion euros. The biggest EU humanitarian aid missions in 2013 were in the Sahel Region including Mali (82 million euros), Sudan and South Sudan (80 million euros), Democratic Republic of the Congo (54 million euros), Pakistan (42 million euros), and Somalia (40 million euros). The European Commission gives much attention to providing humanitarian aid to forgotten crisis areas, where the EU is sometimes the only donor.
Estonia supports the idea of making the implementation of the budget more flexible, which would create opportunities for development and humanitarian aid activities to be more cohesive than before. At the same time, the European Commission would have more freedom in the implementation of aid activities, being able to make changes to aid programmes and react to rapidly changing conditions.
Regardless of the budget cuts in the new budgetary period, the European Union remains the largest donor in the world, providing over half of the official development aid in the world to developing countries. Estonia feels it is essential for the European Union to move towards the international obligations it has accepted, and as a country we are gradually taking steps in the direction of increasing our development co-operation sums in accordance with our obligations, all the while helping to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and alleviate the suffering of people in catastrophic situations.