Improving Coherence: Challenges for European Development Cooperation


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    Since the conclusion of the Maastricht Treaty, coherence of EU action has become a fundamental principle which is expected to guide all European policies that affect developing countries. Coherence has become a priority for development-minded actors such as the NGOs who are scrutinising policies, like the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or fisheries policy, to make sure that development priorities are not compromised. This quest for coherence is not easy. The EU has to accommodate many diverse and legitimate sectoral and national interests. Its decision-making system is moreover complex and involves the various institutions of the EU through a variety of ways. This diversity in decision-making filters through to the level of implementation so that existing information and machinery for concerted action, vital to achieve a degree of coherence, are frequently inadequate. Finally, as in the Member States, development cooperation is a "soft" policy with a relatively weak constituency and little bargaining power. Thus, after five years, the coherence "balance sheet" shows generally poor results and occasional successes. Despite the difficulties, coherence is still a major concern for the EU, its Member States, NGOs, public opinion, and also the beneficiaries of aid. The 1997 Dutch presidency of the EU acknowledged this by including it on the agenda next to the debate on the future of the Lomé Convention. The two themes are intertwined: At a time when the EU is redefining the very notion of partnership with developing countries, it is necessary and fair that it also takes its share of the responsibility for more effective development cooperation. It can do this by making all of its relations with the developing world much more consistent. This paper reports on an ECDPM seminar that examined the "processes" that give rise to inconsistent policies and those capable of preventing them. An attempt is made to draw some lessons from specific cases studies -- the CAP (the example of European beef exports), the directive on chocolate, fisheries agreements, and the environment. Read Policy Management Brief 9
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