Within days of a new European Union summit to try to break the deadlock in the negotiations for its 2014-20 budget, European NGOs expressed concern about the British proposal to reduce the amounts allocated to development cooperation, and called on leaders not tu use the “life-saving” aid budget as a bargaining tool in this week’s talks.
The British newspaper The Guardian reported that the European budget negotiations stalled since last November, when the British Prime Minister David Cameron called on EU governments to “live in the real world” and implement austerity measures. The newspaper claims that the British government maintains its position and will come to this new European summit with a proposal to reduce the EU budget in about 765 billion euros (about one billion US dollars).
Cameron is one of the three co-chairs of the High Level Panel (HLP) of the UN for the post 2015, a body convened by the Secretary-General to develop proposals for a development framework after the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. And although Cameron has promised that Britain will meet the goal of dedicating the 0.7% of GDP to development cooperation this year, its proposals to cut the EU budget will, in practice, push it away from the goal.
NGOs fear that since both the EU structural funds allocated to the poorest regions of Europe and the financing of the common agricultural policy are now protected from further cuts, the “axe” will fall on the 51 billion euros that the European Commission has proposed to allocate to development cooperation. This amount is broken down into 21 billion for the Development Cooperation Instrument, which focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, and 30 billion for the European Development Fund (EDF), whose focus is primarily sub-Saharan Africa.
The Guardian also reports that at the failed negotiations in November 2012, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy had proposed an 11% cut in the budget of the EDF compared to the figure proposed by the Commission, while cuts to other budget lines were only 7.5% on average. The Brussels-based NGO ONE and European NGO platform Concord now fear even deeper cuts that could make the European budget for development cooperation in 2020 end up being less lower than its 2007 aid allocations to regions like sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond, the UK NGO network, said that “EU humanitarian and development aid is deemed one of the most efficient, impactful and transparent in the world. It has stopped 50 million people in more than 50 countries from going hungry in the last three years … Leaders must not use the life-saving aid budget as a bargaining tool in this week’s talks.”
The NGOs’ position against further EU budget cuts in development cooperation is consistent with the results of the public opinion survey of Eurobarometer published in October 2012, which revealed that 85% of Europeans think that Europe should continue to cooperate with developing countries despite the economic crisis, and that 61% of them are in favor of increasing development cooperation.