EU risks eroding global role with proposed foreign policy budget

Today, the European Commission published details of its planned foreign affairs spending for the coming years (2021-2027). A central part of the plan is a ‘single external instrument’, which will be the EU’s main mechanism for development aid. The complex political environment, in which the EU is discussing the new budget – marred by Brexit and the rise of populism in Europe – will have strong impact on the EU’s future role as a global development actor.

Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor, Hanna Saarinen, said:

“There are some positive points in the proposal which we welcome. The proposed budget framework has a clear focus on human rights, democracy and the crucial role played by civil society groups. However, it completely side-lines important issues like sustainable agriculture, which is essential for providing income and food for people around the world. 

“The EU risks eroding its role as a responsible global player with a new foreign policy budget that aims to appease member states who want to be tough on immigration. In principle, an increase in spending for external action should be good news. But not if this money is used for inward-looking policies on migration and security, rather than long-term sustainable development which benefits all people.

“Clear rules for transparency, governance and predictability are needed to counterbalance the proposed flexibility for aid spending. As it stands, the EU will be able to divert money to its own interests more easily. If we don’t know where development money is supposed to go, we can’t be sure it will reach the people who need it most.”

Notes to editors: 
  • The EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will determine the priorities, architecture and the financial amounts of the EU’s budget for the next seven years (2021-2027). Today, the Commission published the details of its foreign affairs spending proposal, which includes the governing rules of the ‘single external instrument’.
  • The Commission proposes to move from mainly thematic funding, for instance for sustainable agriculture or food and nutrition, to geographic programmes which dominate the proposed single instrument. This decision has been driven by the EU’s strategic interest to allocate funding to selected countries or regions where it wants to stem migration.
  • In numbers, thematic sector support is set to receive only EUR 7bn, while the total funding reserved for different flexibility mechanisms is at EUR 14bn. This runs contrary to the need of a long-term, predictable funding approach, which is needed to address the complex challenges related to poverty, inequality and social exclusion. 
  • There is also a lack of clarity on how decisions about the funding allocations will be made, and by whom, under the proposed new broad single instrument. This highlights the need to establish a transparent and accountable governance mechanism.
Contact information: 

Florian Oel | Brussels | florian.oel@oxfam.org | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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