EU High Representative for Foreign Policy and European Commission Vice-President, Catherine Ashton, informed Members of the European Parliament’s Development Committee meeting on 8 November that she is committed to ensuring that development policy “remains at the heart of external policy” as set out in the Lisbon Treaty. The current focus, she said, is on ensuring that an operational framework is established that allows the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission’s new EuropeAid Development and Co-operation Directorate-General (DevCo) to “join up the jigsaw puzzle of different aspects of EU activity” – the EU Member States’ and European Commission instruments available to enable the EU to work more effectively and have a greater impact of the objective of eradication of poverty. This will not, she said, interfere with the development programming work the EU Development Commissioner.
Ashton also said she wants to look at how to make sure the EU is as efficient as possible in delivering support to development partners while also being flexible enough to respond should unforeseen issues arise and to be able “to scan the horizon for countries that are not failing states now, but which have the potential to be in future or places where pockets of poverty need to be dealt with and we can help”.
In response to questions from MEPs, she stressed that she does not think there will be conflicts between herself and the EU Development Commissioner on development cooperation. “Andris and I do and will discuss how best to uitilse the resources we have and how best to use the development resources, in conjunction with other instruments. We will collaborate on strategic objectives and where there are issues where we’re trying to get these different instruments to work, we will work it out together.”
Ashton also announced that full meetings of EU Development Ministers will be held twice yearly. The first will be held during the first half of 2011.
Also in response to concerns from MEPs on the apparent lack of development expertise in the draft EEAS organigramme, Ashton stressed that this is only a draft and when finalised it must be seen in conjuntion with the ogranigramme of DevCo and in relation to the role of the rotating EU Presidency which will continue to chair the Council’s ACP and Development Cooperation Working Groups.