Public Group on Fragility and Crisis Situations
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EU Trust Funds: Shaping more comprehensive external action?

EU Trust Funds (EUTFs) are a new instrument in EU external action. Their creation responds to the EU’s will to deliver more flexible, comprehensive and effective joint EU support, and increase the EU’s global visibility and political weight in particularly challenging contexts.

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So far, the EU has been extremely swift in setting up Trust Funds, building a momentum for change which European diplomats have qualified in the corridors as “unrivalled in the history of EU external action”.

EU Trust Funds provide opportunities for the EU and its Member States to deliver more flexible, comprehensive and effective joint support in response to emergencies, fragility and thematic priorities. As such, they can help to increase the EU’s global visibility and allow to speak politically and operationally with one voice in very different contexts and regions.

The EU counts three EUTFs which are very different in nature but which raise a number of generic issues relevant to this new EU instrument:

The Bêkou Trust Fund for the Central African Republic
July 2014

Regional Trust Fund for Syria (Madad Fund)
December 2014

EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (“the Africa Trust Fund”)
November 2015

This Briefing Note aims to facilitate a better understanding of how EUTFs are created, how they operate and what are the specificities of the three existing Funds. It will then explore the key political and operational challenges that result from the creation of EUTFs, and discuss the implications of EUTFs for the wider functioning of EU external action in complex and fragile environments, before concluding. 


Key messages

  • EU Trust Funds provide opportunities for the EU and its Member States to deliver more flexible, comprehensive and effective joint support in response to emergencies, fragility and thematic priorities. As such, they can help to increase the EU’s global visibility and allow to speak politically and operationally with one voice in very different contexts and regions.
  • The three Funds set up to date (Bêkou, Madad and the Africa Trust Fund) differ substantially in scope and funding volumes. Positive first implementation experiences from Bêkou cannot be taken for granted for others. Their success depends substantially on the EU Member States’ willingness to contribute to an instrument, which allows the EC to exercise more weight on external action. 
  • Political pressures to react quickly and show results within short time frames entails a risk to forget about valuable international cooperation lessons. In particular for the new and very broad Africa Trust Fund, guidance is needed to ensure that decisions are grounded on solid analysis, are aligned with existing (regional and country) strategies, safeguard country ownership, ensure complementarity, and balance between long-term and short-term objectives.

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Rhys Williams uploaded a new Document 24 November 2015

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24 November 2015

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