Tomorrow, EU leaders will gather again to discuss the regional bloc’s multiannual budget. But while there’s a sense among stakeholders that an agreement will be reached this time, the outlook for development cooperation remains uncertain.
European aid groups have been campaigning ahead of the talks — sending letters to member states, engaging the media, and meeting with relevant officials, including with the cabinet of EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who in November proposed drastic cuts to development and humanitarian aid before budget negotiations broke down. Their message: Retain a robust development budget between 2014 and 2020.
Funding concerns abound, to be sure, mostly because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and several other European leaders have been pressing for steep across-the-board cuts — and if these don’t materialize, areas such as Europe’s agricultural sector are much more likely to be spared while others may fare worse.
But recent statements by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and others in support of development cooperation have raised the hope of a positive outcome within the aid community, said Lars Bosselman, advocacy manager at CBM and chair of CONCORD’s working group on the EU budget.
“The kind of concern that we still have — and that will be on the table tomorrow and the day after that — is there is a general call for cuts to the budget, and that is not guided by development,” he told Devex. “That’s just guided by the need or the request from some of the bigger member states in particular to cut now.”
Regardless of this week’s outcome, budget negotiations will continue since European leaders are not expected to outline in detail this week which programs will receive how much money in the coming years. And so far, the EU has given no indication on how it would spend the money, especially in the case of cuts, since, as Bosselman put it, “nobody really would put that openly out.”
That said, Bosselman added: “Savings can be made where a lot of money goes to.”
The Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Development Fund are among the largest development-focused EU instruments.
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