After electing its chair and vice-chairs following the recent elections held in the European Union’s 28 member states, the European Parliament’s influential Committee on Development — known as DEVE — held its first meeting this week under the stewardship of British MEP Linda McAvan.
On the agenda were priorities for the coming months as well as the 2015 budget, Devex learned from insider sources in Brussels.
Committee members agreed to push forward on previous commitments on human development, food security and civil society as priority areas. Members also heard from European Commission representatives about their priorities in the coming parliamentary term, which included continued work around the executive’s position on the post-2015 framework in advance of the United Nations General Assembly in September, the definition of the so-called Means of Implementation to be presented next year in Addis Ababa, and follow-up on the Cotonou cooperative agreement — the framework for the EU’s relations with 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, which expires in 2020.
MEPs, according to well-placed sources present at the committee meeting, raised concerns over how differentiation has contributed to the lack of progress on finishing the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals — especially in middle-income countries, the importance of policy coherence for development, and progress on the human-rights based approach to EU development policy.
Concerning the bloc’s development budget, we learned that the fact that Austrian MEP Paul Rübig is a member of DEVE but also sits on the Committee on Budgets is positive, since he will be able to “push for development policy” during the annual budgetary procedure for 2015. In this area, MEPs from the euroskeptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group and right-wing Party for Freedom group questioned the sizeable investment initially agreed upon for the European Year for Development in 2015.
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Representatives from EuropeAid, the EU Commission’s development policy and development aid department, went over proposed budget cuts and stressed they would favor “frontloading” to avoid spreading the budget over several years through too many small projects. The committee were also informed about a number of budgetary cuts suggested by the Council of the EU — an institution comprised of national ministers from each EU member state — and some concerns were raised about the effects of such cost-savings on staffing levels at the EU’s delegations and representations worldwide.
Meanwhile, representatives from ECHO, the Commission’s humanitarian aid arm, underscored the need to focus on South Sudan — where there is currently a high risk of famine — and to bolster their payment credits so they stay at least at the same level as commitment credits.
During the meeting, DEVE also received an extensive briefing on development priorities under the six-month rotating Italian presidency of the EU, with the issues of humanitarian advocacy, rural development, migration and the post-2015 agenda set to dominate proceedings in the months ahead.
“Humanitarian advocacy is our first priority in the development area,” Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli told the committee on Tuesday, adding that the presidency will also focus on easing budgetary constraints on EU humanitarian assistance, strengthening the link between humanitarian assistance and civil protection, improving protection for vulnerable groups in emergency situations, and stepping up private sector engagement in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Prior to EU-wide elections, in recent months DEVE had prepared and negotiated the EU’s 2014-2020 Development Cooperation Instrument, after long and sometimes difficult negotiations with the Council and the Commission, as well as establishing the EU Aid Volunteers initiative and declaring 2015 as the European Year for Development.
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