Spotlight on the division of labour between the EEAS and DG DEVCO
Development and poverty reduction should be a priority of European external affairs, according to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. An indication of whether this is actually the case and what priorities are being pursued by Europe is given by how the EU plans its external aid programmes and how it allocates financial resources. Both are cornerstones of the political dialogue between the EU and its partner countries, and shape the character of cooperation.
On the European side, two institutions have a say when it comes to planning aid: the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation-EuropeAid (DEVCO) and the European External Action Service (EEAS), which has just marked its first birthday. Translating this joint responsibility on the aid programming cycle into practice is not necessarily that straightforward. While the EEAS is tasked with preparing aid allocation and programming decisions, this remains under the responsibility of the Development Commissioner. This presents both opportunities, by allowing for more holistic approaches, and risks, that European security concerns may trump development cooperation priorities.
The complexity of the programming cycle, where both the EEAS and DEVCO are leading on different steps, makes regular information exchange and good collaboration more important – and more complicated. Effective communication and clear guidelines on workflows between the two are necessary, and some major organisational challenges are apparent..
On 13 January the working arrangements setting out the modalities for cooperation between the EEAS and DEVCO were finally signed by the EC’s Secretary General and the EEAS’ Chief Operating Officer. While this agreement is a confidential, internal document, a DEVCO representative outlined its main aspects to the European Parliament’s Development Cooperation Committee on 25 January (watch video starting at 15.12) in reply to a written question posed by a member of the Parliament. According to the agreement, the EEAS and DEVCO should interact in the following way:
- The implementation of programmes is the sole responsibility of the DEVCO;
- The EEAS plays a specific role in programming major instruments;
- The EEAS has the leadership role in programming for the EU Budget’s Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Development Fund, both under the responsibility of the EC Development Commissioner;
- The first step in the programming process is that the EEAS, in agreement with DEVCO, drafts programming guidelines for the Development Commissioner to send to the delegations;
- EU delegations then launch consultations with the partner country;
- Delegations then send their proposals for country strategy papers and indicative programmes to the EEAS and DEVCO;
- Country team meetings, which assemble EEAS and DEVCO and other interested services, assess the proposals;
- The inter-service quality support group then assesses the proposals;
- Proposals are presented jointly by the EEAS and DEVCO;
- The inter-service consultation to finalise the EC proposal is launched by the EEAS, in agreement with DEVCO;
- The proposal then goes to the relevant EU Council Committee where DEVCO chairs and acts as the secretariat and the EEAS presents proposals and answers questions from EU Member States;
- EEAS and DEVCO jointly answer questions from the European Parliament under democratic scrutiny for the Development Cooperation Instrument (this is not applicable to the European Development Fund which is outside the EU budget);
- The EEAS is responsible for launching the regional procedure for final adoption by the EC;
- Regarding thematic programmes, DEVCO has the leading role, including for programming, and the EEAS is consulted at each step of the process;
- Regarding implementation for all instruments, the annual action programmes are prepared by DEVCO which also launches the inter-service consultations, presents the draft to comitology procedures and launches the procedure for approval by the EC college. Implementation is the sole responsibility of DEVCO while the EEAS contributes through heads of delegations acting as sub-delegated authorising officers on the spot;
- DEVCO is responsible for coordinating policies with EU Member States;
- Any disagreements are sorted out in the EC College of Commissioners who finally agree on programming and annual programmes.
This inter-service agreement helps to set out the rules, but implementation challenges remain. There seems not to be sufficient capacity to work effectively towards development objectives in both the EEAS and DEVCO. New EEAS departments have still to prove they can warrant mainstreaming of development concerns in their work. On the ground, EU delegations are often understaffed to fulfil the role expected from them. Further, DEVCO’s organisational structure, which has been changed one year ago, after the creation of the EEAS, has limited capacity to provide sectoral quality support, operational guidance and ensure policy coherence.
The litmus test for the focus of EU development cooperation will be the next programming cycle for the EU’s “financial instruments”, the rules guiding the EU’s spending. Here it will become clear whether poverty eradication or the pursuit of the EU’s economic, security and migration interests prevail. A new generation of financial instruments and country and regional strategies will be drawn up and implemented from 2014-2020, the timeframe of the next EU budget. It is important that good cooperation mechanisms will be established and function well between DEVCO and the EEAS so that the objectives and spirit of the Lisbon Treaty related the EU’s development policy and poverty reduction remain at the core of these activities.
ECDPM has kept an eye on this (see my colleagues Jeske van Seters’ and Henrike Klavert’s recent paper “EU development cooperation after the Lisbon Treaty: People, institutions and global trends”) and will continue to do so.
Melissa Julian is Knowledge Management Officer and editor of the Weekly Compass at ECDPM.
This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.