The world’s largest aid donor, the European Union has been under tremendous pressure and strain since the global financial crisis. But with the European Parliament recently voting to increase next year’s aid budget by 400 million euros ($505 million), the bloc remains determined to resist calls by some member states to impose drastic cuts.
Enter Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s recently elected leader who faces an array of urgent challenges at home and abroad and an overall ambitious international agenda that includes the post-2015 development goals and a binding climate change deal.
As parliamentary elections and hearings unfolded, our Brussels correspondents went behind the scenes to introduce the new faces of European aid under Juncker and report on the implications of critical foreign policy and international development appointees, including:
▪ Neven Mimica, a Croatian national who is the new international cooperation and development commissioner.
▪ Christos Stylianides, a Cypriot national who is the new commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.
▪ Federica Mogherini, an Italian national who is the high representative for foreign and security policy.
Perhaps the most immediate challenge ahead of the new European development leaders is bolstering and coordinating the EU response to Ebola. We have already seen the Commission propose a much-needed system to coordinate the medical evacuation of aid workers from Ebola-affected areas. Now, under Stylianides’ leadership — who was also appointed the bloc’s new “Ebola czar” — the Commission will provide 24.4 million euros for the pharmaceutical industry to conduct additional research on the virus and raise the bloc’s financial support for stopping the spread of the epidemic in West Africa to 1 billion euros.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the latest bouts of violence between Israel and Hamas have forced the EU to face the sobering realization that two decades of aid have failed to foster development for the Palestinian people — raising fundamental questions about whether EU assistance to Palestine is headed in the right direction.
As this new Commission takes over, there are also more practical, yet constantly evolving, business issues at play for implementing partners, such as how the new leadership will engage the private sector and specific contract vehicles and funding instruments available to them.
Devex reporters and correspondents are positioned in Brussels to bring you breaking news from Europe’s capital and deliver everything you need to know on Europe’s development and humanitarian strategies, programs and priorities.
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