Development & Aid, Europe, Headlines, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees

EUROPEAN UNION: ‘Giving With One Hand, Taking With the Other’

BRUSSELS, Oct 14 2009 (IPS) - “EU policies continue to undermine the economic, social and human development of developing countries” despite repeated commitments in treaties and declarations, a group of European NGOs said in a report published Wednesday.

Efforts are being made to prevent this and there is some progress, they noted, but “there is plenty room for improvement.”

The report was released in Brussels by Concord, the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development. Its 18 international networks and 22 national associations from the European Union member states represent more than 1600 European NGOs.

EU ways are sometimes too complex even for its own bureaucracy. That seems to be the case with ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ (PCD), an EU commitment not to let other policies undermine development cooperation.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, said last month that PCD is difficult to put into practice, and proposed to concentrate on five priority issues. The five are climate change, food security, migration, intellectual property rights and security and peace-building.

It is “remarkable” that the issue of trade is not among the five priorities, Concord said in its report ‘Spotlight on Policy Coherence’. Blatant cases like subsidised export of EU beef, pork and dairy products to Africa had ruined livestock holders and breeders who were supported by the same EU, the report says.

“You have to name the beast, otherwise you give the impression of a cover- up,” says Rob van Drimmelen, secretary-general of Aprodev, a coalition of 17 European development organisations and a member of Concord. “Trade absolutely has to be included.”

But trade is not the only area where policies conflict with EU development objectives. Concord criticises EU member states that are “increasingly using development aid to control migration flows and reduce irregular migration.”

Development aid often serves European needs rather than those of the receiving country, the report says. As example, it mentions that eight million euros were earmarked from the 10th European Development Fund for “management of migration flows” by Mauritania. Earlier in 2006 the EU announced the release of 2.45 million euros to help Mauritania tackle migration. Since then, thousands of African migrants trying to reach the Canary islands via Mauritania have been arrested and forcibly returned to Mali and Senegal.

The pressure for migration from Africa itself arises partially from other European policies, the report argues. “EU trade, agriculture and fisheries policies that aim primarily at meeting demands from Europe “might have pushed small farmers, fishermen and other entrepreneurs to embark on a migration journey they had probably never before considered.”

The authors of the Concord report see many reasons for lack of progress on policy coherence.

“There is no obligation to be coherent,” Aprodev’s van Drimmelen says. “The EU has only to ‘take into account’ the effects of other policies on development. That is as much as saying that you can sin, as long as you confess your sins.”

Representatives of the European Commission say progress is being made. “We have for instance increased the PCD-degree of the Common Agricultural Policy by reducing export subsidies and reducing other trade distorting effects,” says Francoise Moreau, acting director of the Directorate General for Development.

“This is an ongoing effort. At the same time, we try to promote positive effects between different policies. In the research policy area, we are helping developing countries to access European research programmes.”

Moreau says trade has not been removed as a focus of PCD efforts. “We have defined five challenges to enable a more dynamic approach. When we look at food security, trade policy is involved, as is agricultural policy and even energy policy. We do not want to reduce the scope of PCD.”

“Our core aim regarding developing countries is to improve market access, making sure that trade stimulates growth and reduces poverty,” says Silvia Formentini of the Directorate General for Development. The European Commission, Formentini says, also remains committed to a “strong development outcome” of the Doha round of international trade negotiations.

Concord has demanded greater transparency and accountability from the EU. A “hierarchy of values” should be clearly spelt out, with pro-poor and sustainable development policies forming the basis for EU policy, it says.

Broad-based consultations and democratic debates as an integral part of policymaking processes could ensure that the rights and interests of people living in developing countries are taken into account, the report says.

The EU, it says, needs clear benchmarks to assess whether another priority should override development considerations. A complaints mechanism could improve accountability and coherence.

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