Sherriff, A; Gregersen, C 2014. Predicting the Future of EU Development and International Cooperation. Maastricht: ECDPM.
It’s a dangerous thing trying to predict the future, the EU’s international development priorities are no exception. The Agenda for Change, the EU’s guiding development policy since 2011, was almost good to go when the Arab Spring was suddenly in full swing, requiring a hasty rewrite that re-emphasised governance and human rights.
So, what are the recurring themes that are likely to be the focus of the new Commission for 2014 – 2019? EU Commission President Juncker outlined a list of focus areas in the mission letter for the newly renamed ‘International Cooperation and Development’ portfolio. Commissioner-designate Neven Mimica specified his top three priorities during his hearing:
1st Priority – the post-2015 framework
In 2015 the MDGs will be followed up with a new set of post-2015 development goals, and a new binding global treaty on climate change will hopefully be agreed. This represents a unique opportunity to integrate results of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in the agenda framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is clear that Juncker wants Europe to play an important leading role in both processes.
In his written response to the Parliament, Mimica outlined his wish for an ambitious, universal and transformational post-2015 framework. During the hearing he stated his goal for a comprehensive European approach; ensuring coherence among the Commissioners. Specifically, he elaborated on the limits of the MDGs, and said the new SDGs should achieve a balance between the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.
Furthermore, he noted the important link between climate and development, stating they are part of the EU’s common external action. Mimica also outlined his support for ambitious targets on climate and energy, and systematic mainstreaming of these issues within development programmes and projects.
All wise words and nothing anyone would disagree with. But the EU’s track record, in both global engagement with a collective EU voice and the mainstreaming of climate change across the Commission and EU member-states activities, is not as strong as it should be.
Unless the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President, Federica Mogherini, takes up a strong lead in mainstreaming sustainable development throughout EU’s foreign policy and plays an active role in championing EU’s external climate action, it is unlikely that Mimica will be able to pull it off alone with the Climate Action and Energy Commissioner. Marshaling this will be a question of skillful alliance building. Arguably the bigger challenge for the Commission and Mimica will be directing and pushing through the kind of change management needed to implement the post-2015 framework across the Commission.
2nd Priority – The future of EU-Africa relations and a post-Cotonou Framework
Mimica’s second priority is to launch and negotiate a post-Cotonou framework and to strengthen the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa. This EU-Africa partnership is underpinned by a political statement with a very different character from the legal framework provided by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.
Interestingly, the strengthening of the EU’s strategic partnership with Africa is mentioned as a priority in Juncker’s letters to Commissioners across four portfolios: International Cooperation and Development; Trade; Migration and Home Affairs; and European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. The Africa-EU strategic partnership got a lift with a well-attended EU-Africa Summit in April 2014, and the Commission has done its homework in creating better alignment in the Pan-African Programme with the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). Whether this prioritisation will give the political dialogue in the EU-Africa partnership a much needed invigoration remains to be seen.
The Cotonou Agreement between the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) group of states and the EU is due to expire in 2020. The agreement manages billions of euros in aid, and Mimica sees the launch of a broad public consultation as an important start to EU reflections on the future of the partnership. He stated: “it cannot be a simple continuation of the past”, a sentiment echoed in the ACP’s own further advanced reflection process.
Yet, how much both parties are really willing to entertain a really critical reflection on the past, and frankly put on the table their interests has always been a challenge. Throughout his hearing Mimica emphasised the importance of the EU building partnerships in development with Europe being seen not as “payer but a player”.
Whether this really indicates a serious move away from a relationship predominantly based on historical ties and aid towards a more strategic relationship based on a political partnership and enhanced cooperation will be something to watch.
3rd Priority – Policy Coherence for Development? Or something else?
The third priority, policy coherence for development, came across during the many questions and answers in Mimica’s hearing and throughout Juncker’s mission letters to the Commissioners. President Juncker set up several working groups in the College of Commissioners, underlining their mandates to work together. Considerable skepticism remains whether this will be the ‘great leap forward’ for policy coherence for development.
Take for example migration and Europe’s borders. For the development portfolio, Mimica stressed that the EU’s development money should not be directly focused on “building the walls in Europe […] but to dismantle the walls in countries of origin”. Yet, the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President and the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development are all mandated to work together to improve cooperation with developing countries, including on re-admission issues. Collective action on migration could be positive or negative for development depending on how this cooperation is implemented and to what goal. During his hearing, Mimica outlined a nuanced approach to migration noting that the majority of African migrants migrate within the African continent. He added, legal migration options should be improved as well as addressing the social and economic conditions within Africa.
Commissioner designate Mimica presented himself as the “commissioner of coordination and coherent policies” – and not of subordination. In the spirit of policy coherence for development, Mimica advocated moving away from a silo mentality within the College of Commissioners. This would be great if he can pull it off. From ECDPM’s past work on policy coherence for development, we know for it to be successful, Mimica will need to focus his direct high level political sponsorship in a limited number of policy areas to have something tangible to show.
Overall, commissioner designate Mimica certainly proved himself well-prepared and competent, although some believe he received less of grilling than other commission candidates. His true test will be in follow-through on good ideas many of which while worthy are neither new nor subject to quick wins.
The views presented here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ECDPM.
Photo courtesy of European Parliament
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We have grouped this relatively small selection of our extensive back-catalogue under the following thematic headings:
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4. On Policy Coherence for Development & Migration
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On new Commission overall
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On Future of Cotonou and Strategic Partnership with Africa
On Policy Coherence for Development & Migration
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