EU flags. Photo by: European Union 2013 - European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND

European Union countries have proposed cutting the bloc's development aid funds by 6.5 percent as an amendment to the 2018 budget, in a move that was swiftly condemned by a coalition of NGOs.

The EU's draft budget for 2018 was presented by the European Commission — the body responsible for proposing legislation — at the end of May, including a suggested aid budget of around 9.6 billion euros. This represented a cut of 5.6 percent compared to 2017.

However, ambassadors representing each of the EU's 28 member states on Wednesday proposed trimming it by a further 90 million euros compared to the commission’s suggestion, representing a total cut of about 6.5 percent against 2017 levels.

It came as part of a wider proposed cut to the overall draft budget, with the group taking “a generally frugal approach, [focusing] resources on those areas with the highest added value,” a representative of the Council of the EU said in a statement.

But NGOs, including Oxfam, Plan International, ONE and Save the Children, denounced the move as a “triumph of self-interest.”

“The EU is capable of creating a more just, sustainable and prosperous future for all — in Europe and beyond,” said Alexandra Makaroff, Plan International’s EU representative. “The budget member states are proposing is far from ensuring that no one is left behind. Instead, it seems to be more about serving their own national interests.”

The EU institutions are the world's fourth largest aid donor as of 2016, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

However, it has been criticized in recent times for channeling a large proportion of its aid toward efforts on migration control.

Reacting to the decision, Natalia Alonso, Oxfam International’s deputy director for advocacy and campaigns, said “It’s not just the amount of money which is crucial — where and what it’s spent on are every bit as important. Development aid must go to those who need it most, no matter who or where they are.”

“EU member states are increasingly tying aid to their own political interests, rather than focus[ing] it on the poorest countries and poorest people. Reducing migration towards Europe should not become an indicator for the success of development aid,” she added.

A final decision on the 2018 budget is not expected until November. Before then, the Council of the EU — which is made up of ministers of state from the EU countries — and the European Parliament — which is directly elected by EU citizens — will each formally adopt a position and then negotiate a final agreement.

The proposed amendment with the cuts was agreed by a meeting of ambassadors to the EU acting on behalf of its member states. Although the group is part of the Council of the EU, it does not yet represent the council’s formal position.

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About the author

  • Jessica Abrahams

    Jessica Abrahams is Devex's Deputy News Editor. Based in London, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on Europe & Africa. She has previously worked as a writer, researcher and editor for Prospect magazine, The Telegraph and Bloomberg News, among other outlets. She holds graduate degrees in journalism from City University London and in international relations from Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals.