EU budget 2016: EU boosts funds for refugee crisis and development to historic high – good move, say ONE and Oxfam

The highest amount of funding ever allocated to refugees and development programs is an important outcome of the European Parliament’s approval of the European Union's 2016 budget, which ONE and Oxfam see as a good move.

Of the agreed €155 billion for the overall budget, €9.16 billion will be spent on interventions in the Middle East, as well as humanitarian aid, in order to tackle the refugee crisis. Additional funds have also been allocated to the Commission’s development programs.

ONE and Oxfam welcome the agreement on the EU Budget as both organizations had campaigned for this increase following calls by the Member States to inflict disproportionate cuts to the EU’s aid budget.

The budget was passed on Wednesday by the European Parliament following Member States’ unanimously approval on Tuesday.

Tamira Gunzburg, Director of ONE Brussels, said:

“We welcome the approval of the EU 2016 Budget, which sees development funding increased in spite of threatened cuts. This is an extraordinary result and we are very pleased at the outcome. We thank, amonst others, Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna and Member of the European Parliament José Manuel Fernandes for the role they played in securing this deal.”

The refugee crisis was one of the drivers behind the funding increase. But unlike Member States such as Denmark and Sweden, who are considering cuts to their development programs in order to support refugees at home, the EU decided to protect and increase poverty-fighting programs at the same time.

“Funding to support refugees in need of protection must be found, and fast. But it must not be the world’s poorest bear the brunt . Pitting the plights of the world’s most vulnerable people against each other is not a just or sustainable solution. The EU has shown that it is possible to increase funding to both the refugee response and poverty-fighting aid programmes simultaneously. We fully expect Member States to follow this powerful example.”

Despite the top-line figures now being agreed, questions remain as to how exactly this money will be allocated.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam International’s Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns, said:

“With humanitarian crises at an all-time high, it’s good the EU is finally delivering an urgently needed increase in funds for development but this boost is likely to be bust fast. The money must be spent well by fighting extreme poverty – no ifs or buts.

“The response of some EU member states to the current refugee crisis has clearly shown a risk of blurring the lines between development aid and bolstering border controls around and within Europe. Oxfam calls on the EU and its member states to make clear guarantees that EU development funds will be used to help vulnerable people and not for Fortress Europe.”

Notes to editors: 
  • For details on the EU 2016 budget, see documents published by the European Commission.
  • The EU's response to the refugee crisis: At the Valletta summit on migration, bringing together the EU leaders with African leaders, the EU launched the EU Emergency Trust Fund. With an intended volume of €1.8 billion, the Trust Fund shall tackle root causes of irregular migration in Africa. ONE and Oxfam call on the EU to ensure the Trust Fund has a clear separation between development aid and security cooperation envelopes. Furthermore, the Fund needs to be explicit about the standards it will apply to non-development projects, especially to ensure respect of people’s rights. The organizations also warned against making aid to Africa conditional on cooperation on border control.
  • In 2005, 15 EU member states made clear commitments to support the Millennium Development Goals by providing 0.7 percent of Gross National Income as aid by 2015. The same year saw the 12 new EU countries commit to providing 0.33 percent of GNI by 2015.
  • However, according to the Aidwatch Report 2015, the EU remains well short of the target. As a group, the EU spent 0.42 percent of its GNI on aid in 2014, with only four of 28 Member States meeting the 0.7 percent target – Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.
  • The Aidwatch Report also shows that aid budgets are increasingly being used to cover refugee and asylum seekers costs (The Netherlands 145 percent, Italy 107 percent, Cyprus 65 percent, and Portugal 38 percent).
  • About ONE’s “Protect Aid. Save Lives.” Campaign: ONE launched this Campaign in mid-October with a petition which has now been signed by more than 32,700 ONE members across Europe.
Contact information: 

Oxfam: Florian Oel, florian.oel@oxfaminternational.org, +32 (0)473 56 22 60
ONE:  Andrea Ghianda, andrea.ghianda@one.org, +32 (0)2 300 89 42 / +32 (0)471 89 64 22

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.