What’s Next for DG DEVCO? A Conversation with Fokion Fotiadis, Part 2

Fokian Fotiadis, former DG DEV chief and now head of the EuropeAid Development and Cooperation Directorate-General. Photo by: Christian Lambiotte / EU

The next few months will be crucial for the nascent EuropeAid Development and Cooperation Directorate-General. Although DG DEVCO has been operational since the start of the year, its setup may not be finalized until April upon a complete merger of the EU’s policymaking and implementation arms, EuropeAid and the Directorate-General for Development.

Fokion Fotiadis is at the forefront of this reorganization. The DG DEVCO chief acknowledges that the new agency needs to “get it right from the start” considering the “great complexity” of the process.

Aside from fully setting up its structure, DG DEVCO is busy preparing the final draft of a new European Union development policy, based on the response to public consultations on a green paper the European Commission released in November. In this second and final installment of our interview with Fotiadis, the Greek native discusses the immediate priorities of his organization and shares his view about the emerging cooperation between Europe and China to help Africa attain the Millennium Development Goals.

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What are DG DEV’s short- and long-term priorities? What are the DG’s next steps?

Our priority, first of all, is to make sure that the new structure, DEVCO, is going to become operational as quickly as possible. A reorganization of this size is of great complexity. It is very important that we get it right from the start.

In terms of policies, I think our priority is to follow up on the green paper on the future of development policy and to make sure that this will lead us to a modernization of EU development policy, also with the view of focusing on things where we can really make a difference in terms of MDGs and poverty reduction. We have to focus on how to translate the objective of inclusive growth and private and public investments into tangible policy and results. These are things that will take a lot of our time in the coming months.

In general, the question of how to increase the impact of the European funds is a crucial question in view of the very difficult budgetary situation of our member states and in view of the promise that we have made in terms of MDGs for 2015. We need to make sure that the European funds have a much higher impact and taxpayers’ money is used to the best objectives.

In terms of concrete programs, what does “high impact” mean?

High impact, for me, means two things. One is making a real difference in terms of the policy mix and the reform agenda of our partner countries. For example, making a real difference in terms of these countries’ governance, economic and social policies.

Secondly, how can these countries be supported to create sustainable and inclusive growth? How can we use our funds to leverage substantial investments that we need in order to bring about growth? Growth will bring jobs, jobs will bring income, income will pay taxes, taxes will give a basis for the governments to provide basic services, education, and health, et cetera.

High impact, for me, means to use our policies and funds in ways that will make these two things happen.

Could you explain “inclusive”?

Inclusive growth means that it will trickle down to the people in terms of jobs, in terms of better life, in terms of reducing poverty. Otherwise, it is growth that we know only serves the very few. We have seen too much of this in the past.

Emerging countries such as China, India or Brazil have become important actors in international development cooperation. How does the European Union work with new donors, mainly China?

This is an important question. And I would also add the emergence of nonstate donors; very large private funds are now involved in development.

With regard to emerging countries, I think it is essential that we engage with them. But we need to understand that China sees itself as an investor rather than a donor or development actor. As investors, they must have an interest to encourage governments to promote sound economic governance, improve conditions for investment in developing countries and pursue proper macroeconomic policies.

We would try to find a common denominator for cooperation with China and the other emerging countries based on these issues. That would be a significant building block on the way of working together in developing countries.

At what stage are your talks with China? Are you going ahead with the trilateral dialogue with China and Africa?

That’s something we have to look at. We have already made some very substantial progress. If you look at the G-20 conclusions of the Seoul summit, you will see that there is an important part devoted to development, and this part has been subscribed also by the emerging countries of the G-20. That’s a very good basis to start with. How this can be complemented with a bilateral dialogue with China is something we will look at as early as possible.

In your opinion, what are the most relevant outcomes of the Africa–EU summit held in Tripoli last November?

The summit’s theme by centering on future growth in Africa was already very interesting. These are growth-oriented policies that we want to promote which are also described in the green paper on the future of EU development. The other interesting part is the question of abandoning the old-fashioned donor-recipient relation and of working in the future on the basis of partnerships in which we will share mutual values, objectives and commitments.

Read part 1 of our interview with DG DEVCO chief Fokion Fotiadis, in which he discusses how he expects to work with the European External Action Service, European Parliament and civil society.

About the author

  • Elena L. Pasquini

    Elena Pasquini covers the development work of the European Union as well as various U.N. food and agricultural agencies for Devex News. Based in Rome, she also reports on Italy's aid reforms and attends the European Development Days and other events across Europe. She has interviewed top international development officials, including European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. Elena has contributed to Italian and international magazines, newspapers and news portals since 1995.