How to spend €89.2 billion: Early developments in international cooperation programming

This discussion paper is an initial analysis of how the EU institutions are currently preparing for the next bilateral programming process. 

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    In the proposal for its next budget (2021-2027), the European Commission envisages a major restructuring of its external action architecture that reflects the EU’s ambition to pursue a more strategic, political and interest-driven external action. It includes the creation of a ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument’ (NDICI) worth €89.2 billion, and of global scope. Up to 75% of funds are intended for political cooperation with partner countries and regions.

    Programming such an instrument will be an unprecedented political, policy and administrative challenge. The EU needs to define its strategic priorities and clarify how its official development assistance (ODA) can best safeguard its interests, promote its values and support Lisbon Treaty commitments on poverty eradication and sustainable development, in line with partner countries’ plans for implementing Agenda 2030. Ensuring that programming is framed by the EU’s strategic interests, is informed by a deep understanding of context specificities, and is compliant with programming guiding principles will require a sophisticated but efficient programming process.

    Although programming will not start until the new European Commission takes office at the end of 2019, the EU institutions are getting ready for the herculean task ahead. While there have been a number of encouraging developments, some potential policy-to-practice gaps need to be addressed early in the process, to ensure that the NDICI fulfils all of the EU’s external action aspirations.

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