Top Story of the Week: Europe’s Foreign Policy Takes Shape

Development-oriented non-governmental organizations in Europe welcomed European Union foreign policy reforms approved Monday (June 21) in Madrid.

The Madrid agreement, reached between EU foreign affair chief Catherine Ashton and representatives of key European institutions, gives the green light for the full implementation of the European External Action Service. EU development NGOs indicated they are pleased that the agreement amended Ashton’s original proposal by retaining development policy and budgeting under the responsibility of the European commissioner for development.

One NGO representative told Devex that earlier plans to sue the EU for breaching the Lisbon Treaty by subordinating development policy to diplomacy and security concerns had been abandoned.

The EAS was very controversial from the start, partly due to concerns among member states over its organization and partly because of concerns from the civil society that the new structure might undermine the independence of EU development assistance.

The ideal relationship of international development, diplomacy and defense has long been a topic of intense debates around the globe. In the U.S., this debate is most pronounced in the country’s policy toward Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the European context, Monday’s decision appears to be a “major gain” for the development community. As CIDSE, a group of Catholic development NGOs, noted, the amendment to Ashton’s proposal reduces the risk of development becoming a pawn of EU political and defense strategies under the European External Action Service.

EEAS is expected to become fully operational before the end of the year, and European civil society actors will be watching closely to ensure that their triumph in influencing the Madrid agreement is not lost. This is one of the discussion points they will bring to the table when they meet with Ashton next week.

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