Other available languages: DE
European Commissioner for Development
EU Development policy: Shaping the future together
Meeting with Bundestag's Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, Members of the Committee for European Affairs and the Budget Committee
Bundestag, Berlin (Germany), 11 February 2011
Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many thanks for this opportunity to speak to you today. Germany has been a central contributor to every aspect of EU policy-making, and development policy is no exception. This invaluable contribution is thanks in great part to the commitment and dedication that Germany's lawmakers have shown to the European project down the years. That is why I believe that your support will be vital in helping us press ahead with the EU development agenda.
Berlin is well known as a city steeped in history yet always forward-looking. I hope that we can take a leaf out of Berlin's book as we seek to move forward development policy. I am sure that our meeting today will produce valuable ideas and input for me to take away and give us food for thought.
Let me start by saying that the EU is right to have chosen to focus much of its development spending at European level. The reasons for this are clear. Firstly, it provides invaluable added value in enabling Europe to work together and project its voice in a way that Member States could not do if acting alone. Secondly, it gives us the capability to invest in large-scale projects which Member States could not undertake by themselves. Thirdly, it allows those Member States with a less established development heritage to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of those with more development experience.
I am not saying that the EU should have a monopoly on development activities. What I am saying is that our strength lies in our diversity and in our ability to benefit from comparative advantages. In practical terms, this translates into pinpointing what can best be done collectively at European level and providing the tools to make that happen, while leaving Member States to choose what they can best do themselves.
After a year in the job, I believe that we have made great strides in all of these areas. Our choices have been vindicated. We have much to be proud of. The EU is the world's largest donor; the Lisbon Treaty has made poverty alleviation a priority; our strength as an intellectual leader on development policy is admired the world over. We can see this in the fact that a growing number of countries are taking their cue from us and understanding poverty alleviation as a goal in its own right – not as a weapon in their foreign policy arsenal.
As we debate the future of EU development policy, we should remember that we have a solid basis on which to build. The European Consensus on Development has served us well and rightly remains the reference point for common EU principles, values and commitments on development policy.
The European Union and its Member States provide precious help to millions in their struggle out of poverty. Yet we can and should do more and better. More to make our development assistance fully cost-effective and make every euro we spend count; more to enhance the impact of our development policy; more to speed up progress towards achieving those all-important Millennium Development Goals; and more to align development policy with other policy imperatives, such as climate change or energy.
Recently it has been "all change" with the European Union's institutions, with the advent of the European External Action Service and the merger of the two directorates-general under my remit – development and EuropeAid – to bring policy formulation and implementation under the same roof. With this solid new set-up in place, we can now look at where we should update or refresh European development policy so that it continues to provide the essential framework for the EU's work in helping eliminate poverty for at least the next decade and can respond to global challenges such as climate change, energy and food security.
This process began last autumn with three discussion documents – two Green Papers on EU development policy and on budget support and a public consultation on EU external funding – on which all those concerned with development issues were invited to contribute refreshing and interesting ideas.
The overall aim of the Green Paper on EU development policy was to look at how we can speed up progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This is a moral duty and a real necessity.
Hence my determination to ensure that we increase the impact and European added value of spending at European level, with a fourfold focus:
We are now analysing the contributions we have received during the Green Paper consultation. I welcome their overall support for the idea that the EU should do more to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries. We will explore these issues in the upcoming communication on EU development policy. Alongside that communication we will issue proposals to enrich the overall discussion on the EU financial framework and instruments for the period after 2013, which I will come to later.
Turning briefly to budget support, I wish to thank Germany for its active interest in this important issue, including its contributions to the budget support consultation exercise. We will have to further explore the different approaches and the Commission will have to take account of the positions of the other Member States as well. We will pursue ongoing work towards a coordinated approach together with Member States' technical experts. Based on the consultation results we will issue a communication by the summer. Then, in November, the Council of development ministers will produce conclusions that will give us our coordinated approach.
However, from an initial reading of the response to our budget support consultation my feeling is that budget support is considered a valuable tool –when it is used properly. Employed in the right way, it enables us to catalyse change and leverage partner countries' own efforts to make a bigger difference than we could manage simply by investing money ourselves. That said, I also believe that we should seek to use it more selectively and with far greater determination. In doing so we will be able to deliver identifiable, measurable and tangible results.
I can see the merit in moving to a form of contract-based budget support under which future payments are dependent on agreed targets being met. These targets would be well-defined and measurable, with issues such as governance and human development at their core. I will be discussing this issue later with minister Niebel. I know that we share the same objectives in this area. I would nonetheless stress to you that my reactions here are based on an initial analysis. I am open to all views on the matter and would be very pleased to hear what you have to say.
Of course, not everything in the development garden is rosy. We must all up our game if we are to meet our target of 0.7% of GNI for official development assistance by 2015. This collective EU commitment builds on individual contributions from each Member State. I am encouraged by Germany's continued support for this target, while also sharing your concerns about the difficulties we face in achieving it.
As a former finance minister I know that tough economic times require tough spending choices. Yet I am convinced that, far from pulling away from the developing world, it is more important than ever that we stand by it. Citizens across the EU understand this. If we now redouble our efforts to use the money we spend well to effect real change in the developing world, we will be repaying their trust in us. Moreover, to be frank, development cooperation is in our own interest as well, because it tackles the root causes of problems such as illegal immigration and failing states.
Hence my appeal to you today to do all you can to impress upon your government and constituents alike the importance of meeting the 0.7% target. Making false economies is not a viable option – investing in the world's future is.
Germany is the world's third largest ODA donor. The vital aid you give provides both immediate relief and support for longer-term projects to tackle global challenges. A prime example of this is your strong support for access to energy, renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives to address development and climate change problems alike.
Generally speaking, access to energy is a prerequisite to meeting the MDGs. Moreover, unless we climate-proof our development policy, climate change will no longer be a trend we can combat – it will have become a hard fact of life. That is why your work in energy has such huge socio-economic and, indeed, pioneering value.
With energy programmes in more than 50 partner countries, from Afghanistan to Brazil and from India to Uganda, Germany is enriching EU action in this key area. I very much welcome your long-term engagement in the EUEI – the 2002 EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development. Furthermore, I would like to thank Germany for its efforts as co-chair of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership.
Future of our financial instruments
A reflection to establish how the EU's budget, including external resources, will be distributed after 2013 is ongoing, and will result in Commission proposals this year. The Lisbon Treaty has given the EU a mandate to step up its role as a global player. And with the EEAS, the EU can deliver a truly European and coherent approach to external relations. Against this backdrop, the Commission's recent online public consultation gathered contributions from all stakeholders on EU external funding and options for the future.
In terms of development cooperation, our pursuit of the MDGs will remain our focus over the coming years, while we also strive to deliver on ODA targets. With respect to the future architecture of our financing instruments we have a whole range of options to explore, from ensuring a focus on the poorest and treating emerging countries in a differentiated manner to improving EU interventions in crises or situations of fragility and leveraging EU grant resources, for instance by blending loans and grants.
Security and development
Before I conclude, I would like to touch briefly on an issue which I know is of interest to you here in Germany – namely the link between security and development.
My view is that these two concepts are closely interlinked. Poverty and weak institutions provide a fertile breeding ground for the development of illegal activities. Therefore, in helping third countries improve governance and tackling poverty, with the partner country having full ownership of these processes, we can deliver security and development at one and the same time. In this regard, we will be watching with interest how Germany builds on its idea of vernetzte Sicherheit, or networked security, involving close cooperation between civilian and military personnel in Northern Afghanistan.
Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Achieving the MDGs and our other development commitments will not happen overnight. Only a collaborative and coordinated effort involving donor countries, partner countries, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector will bring the results we all seek.
This brings me to aid effectiveness, and how we coordinate our policies. We have all signed declarations promising to work together and each to focus on what we are best at. And, to be honest with you, we have failed. This is unacceptable. How can we expect a partner country in, say, Africa to take us seriously when fifteen or more European donors are working there with limited resources and too much time spent on coordination?
This state of affairs has to change. I intend to come forward with proposals to improve the way we programme our assistance. Let me make one thing abundantly clear here: I am a firm believer in the comparative advantages I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. The EU and Germany must each do what it does best. For this to happen, we do not need some kind of European control. Each donor should set his own priorities – however, with good knowledge as to what others are doing. To pull more European weight, we need to synchronise our timing better, with one another and the partner country alike. Then we can have a truly coordinated European impact. e
A last word on the private sector now. In developing countries the private sector can be an engine for economic reform, but it often lacks the organisational capacity to make its voice heard. EU enterprises and business organisations can play a crucial role transferring capabilities to our partners in developing countries.
For its part, the EU could further support business-to-business cooperation and public-private dialogue and cooperation in developing countries. It could also use its public aid to boost other types of capital flows, notably by providing the conditions for private investors to engage in developing countries with high-risk profiles.
Naturally, such involvement will need fine-tuning to provide for a level playing field – but there is certainly potential in this approach.
You have a key role to play in supporting these global efforts, talking to your constituents, promoting action and debate at national and local levels, and holding donors to account against their promises. I would also call on you to continue raising public awareness as to the benefits of development cooperation, demonstrating its relevance, mutual interest and visible results.
Last but not least, I am counting on you to help maintain Germany's pivotal role in EU development policy.
I look forward now to answering any questions you may have.