07 May 2020
Category : Reportage
To mark Europe Day, celebrated on 9 May, Silvia Prada and Myriam Erquicia from the FIIAPP’s Brussels office explain the keys to understanding the European Union's cooperation policy, the institutions it comprises and its relationship with implementing agencies such as FIIAPP
We still have a lot to learn about this new coronavirus, and the real consequences of the global crisis it is causing. What we do know for sure is that in order to understand it better and overcome it (here and in other latitudes where its ravages may be even greater), without leaving anyone behind, solidarity, concerted action and cooperation are more necessary than ever. Together we are stronger and we achieve greater impact. As this pandemic once again teaches us, the natural place of multilateralism and cooperation is at the centre of the external action of the European Union (EU) and its member states.
Values such as solidarity and cooperation are part of Europe’s DNA. 86% of EU citizens support development aid; and 70% think that the fight against poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU’s priorities.1 Furthermore, the European Union and its member states are the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with €75.2 billion in 2019, 55.2% of global ODA.2
For some citizens, the EU still seems a complex entity, even though they hear from it almost every day. We’re going to try to clear up some questions, such as what is its cooperation policy, what institutions are in charge of it and what is the link with implementing agencies such as FIIAPP.
What is the European Union’s cooperation policy?
The EU’s cooperation policy is one of the axes of external action, along with trade policy and security policy.
The EU’s powers in the area of cooperation are granted by the Treaties and have to be exercised in coordination with the Member States and other international actors. The main objectives of the EU as established in the Treaties are the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, the EU’s activities in cooperation entail financial contribution by the partner countries and collaboration with them to improve governance, in accordance with common values.
The main frame of reference for EU development aid policy is the European key response to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals: the new 2017 European Consensus on Development .
What institutions are in charge of it?
Several of the institutions that make up the EU are in charge of development cooperation.
The role of the European External Action Service, in particular that of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Josep Borrell, is of particular relevance. As ex officio Vice-President of the European Commission, he ensures the coherence of development aid policy by coordinating the work of all the Commissioners whose portfolios have an external dimension with that of the group of Commissioners whose names correspond to one of the priorities of the new Commission: “A stronger Europe in the world”, and which includes the Commissioner for International Partnerships J. Urpilainen and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, O. Várhelyi.
In fact, the community executive plays a central role in development. It negotiates cooperation agreements, draws up and executes development policy, providing aid to partner countries, through financing actions managed directly or by its partners. Two of its General Directorates stand out.
On the one hand, DG NEAR (Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations), which implements actions in support of reforms for democratic consolidation in the southern and eastern neighbourhood and to help candidate and pre-candidate EU member countries move towards alignment with the EU body of law (“acquis”); promoting prosperity, stability and security in our immediate neighbourhood. An example of this support is the Twinning programme, recently extended to the other partner countries as well.
On the other hand, the DG for International Cooperation and Development, known as DEVCO, which, under the leadership of the Commissioner for International Partnerships, designs the policy of partnerships for development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia; ensuring that it is consistent with other community policies, is aligned with the 2030 Agenda and contributes to peace and stability. Its lines of action correspond to the Commission’s current priorities: the Green Deal, digitisation, migration and the EU’s relations with Africa.
The Council of the European Union, meeting in the format of Development Ministers of the Member States, determines, adopts and applies the development cooperation policy. It is assisted in this by the Working Party on Development Cooperation, known as “CODEV”, which also examines and approves the legislative proposals of the European Commission regarding development cooperation policy.
The European Parliament for its part advises and approves the EU budget, including that dedicated to development cooperation. It can also adopt resolutions on development cooperation in its Committee on Development (DEVE) or Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).
In order to achieve the SDGs as soon as possible, the effectiveness of development cooperation is another fundamental principle for the EU, which is being put into practice through exercises such as joint programming of aid between the EU and its Member states. Furthermore, in the current financial context, in which the Council, the Commission and the Parliament are drawing the new architecture for European development cooperation, in the interests of greater efficiency and flexibility, one of the keys to the negotiation is the proposal that DEVCO made two years ago to merge most of the multiple financing instruments into a single one, known as NDICI (Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument).
What is the link with the implementing agencies such as FIIAPP?
In order to achieve the objectives of its cooperation policy, the European Union needs partners to implement its development actions. These partners may be actors from civil society, international organisations (including international financial institutions and United Nations agencies), the private sector, or the Member States themselves through their cooperation agencies.
FIIAPP is part of the Spanish and European cooperation system. As an implementing agency, following an accreditation process with the EU, the Foundation carries out programmes and projects via delegated cooperation, which is one of our hallmarks with respect to other actors. This makes us, mainly through the European Practitioners’ Network, part of the EU’s external action, and privileged interlocutors of the European Commission, since the EC is an observer member.
Our link with the EU’s development cooperation policy finds expression in dialogue with our natural partners, DG DEVCO and DG NEAR, both with their central services and with the EU delegations on the ground, focusing both on the present and the future. We act as facilitators, accompanying actions financed by the EU to support public policy reform processes in the partner countries where we work.
This link is essential. Now more than ever it is crucial in order to learn more about this coronavirus and its impact on our partner countries. An example of dialogue is the active contribution of FIIAPP as an actor in Spanish cooperation to the implementation of the European Commission’s “Team Europe” initiative to support partner countries in combating COVID-19. Through constant dialogue with Commission teams in Brussels and on the ground, offering our added value: experience, ideas and working methods in mobilising knowledge of the public sector and placing it at the service of external action; and above all, our ability to react and re-adapt quickly, within the framework of, among others, the regional programmes in Latin America and the Twinning programme.
Silvia Prada, head of FIIAPP’s Brussels office
Myriam Erquicia, officer with FIIAPP’s Brussels office
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