Governing a new broad instrument for EU external action: The ins and outs of the institutional power struggle

In this briefing note, we set the scene for the institutional battle over the governance of the proposed €s89.2 billion Neighbourhood, Development, International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). We identify a number of thorny issues to look out for in the upcoming negotiations between the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission.

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    These three institutions have their own interests, which they will seek to advance to maintain – and even enhance their influence over the instrument. Yet, in doing so they must not lose sight of the bigger picture and the acknowledged need for a more strategic, coherent and responsive EU external action. A number of trade-offs will be needed to find the right balance between a more interest-driven and flexible instrument on one hand, and enhanced transparency and accountability on the other. This will mean:

    • clarifying the role of the European Parliament in shaping policies,
    • creating mechanisms for the strategic steering of the instrument and an appropriate forum to involve the member states,
    • giving a stronger role to the European External Action Service in the overall coordination of the instrument, and
    • specifying the criteria and guarantees for tapping into the flexibility cushion.

    Moving forward, a number of considerations should be kept in mind for the future governance setup of the NDICI:

    • avoiding creating additional processes, but building on and improving what is already in place,
    • fostering smoother communication between external affairs and foreign policy actors that the NDICI aims to
      bring together,
    • promoting informal mechanisms too, beyond the purely legal/procedural regulations.
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