Citizens can 'vote' for EU foreign aid

Where should the European Union spend its money? The result of on-site survey of 1,000 people showed that development and humanitarian aid placed 6th out of the 12 priority areas. Photo by: EU

Where should the European Union invest most of its resources?

The European Commission, European Parliament negotiators and the Irish Presidency concluded two weeks ago their talks on the Multi-annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020, so now it’s up to the Parliament and the European Council to give their final go-signal to the budget, which many in the aid community hope will happen before July.

February’s deal put a maximum ceiling of €960 billion in commitments and €908 billion in payments. EU lawmakers rejected that proposal, but not because of the numbers.

But what do citizens think about where the bloc should spend its money?

In an on-site survey in May, more than half of the 1,000 people present at the Open Doors Day in Europe chose education and cultural heritage as the top areas where the European Union should invest most funds.

Next on the list was creating employment, and then peace and stability in the world, while development and humanitarian aid gathered 309 votes, placing 6th out of the 12 priority areas.

Ongoing online poll

Apart from the May survey, a separate online poll is still ongoing until an agreement over the MFF is reached. Devex asked European aid organizations what their thoughts are on the survey.

“In general this online vote has no legal weight but it’ll be interesting to see how development and humanitarian aid do compared with some other areas,” said CONCORD communications officer Daniel Puglisi.

The spokesman for the European confederation of relief and development nongovernmental organizations added that he expects many votes “will go to domestic issues such as job opportunities, which is a major issue citizens are facing, especially young people in countries like Italy, Spain and Greece.”

ONE Brussels director Eloise Todd commented that “it’s good to see the Commission is asking the public for views” and that public support for EU development aid is still strong despite the difficult times, even in countries like Ireland or Spain.

In any case, she stressed, “once there is a final agreement with the Parliament – the question becomes how can that money be spent in the most effective way. The world’s poorest should be prioritised, and investments targeted where they have the greatest impact, such as in agriculture and health.”

We will have to wait and see if the online vote will affect how EU lawmakers decide on the budget.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.