NGOs denounce cuts, tweaks to 2018 EU budget for development aid

NGOs denounced what they said was a €90 million cut from the development aid budget. [CIAT/Flickr]

EU member states decided on Wednesday (12 July) to cut the proposed EU budget for 2018 by €1.2 billion. The European Parliament deplored this “mechanical” cut, while NGOs denounced the decrease of development aid and its re-directing to combat immigration.

On 30 May, Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger presented the executive’s draft EU budget for 2018, acknowledging decision-making difficulties.

‘Brexit’ and ‘future of Europe’ muddle EU's budget decision-making

Günther Oettinger today (30 May) presented the draft EU budget for 2018, acknowledging decision-making difficulties. He said the next long-term budget should be tabled by next summer, to take into account the Brexit context and the decisions on the future of the Union.

The Council decided to cut down the Commission’s draft budget by €1.2 billion in commitments (-0.75%) and by €795.5 million in payments (-0.55%). The Commission’s draft amounts to €159, 551.2 million in commitment appropriations and €144, 805.5 million in payment appropriations.

Commitments are the total volume of promises for future payments that can be made in a given year. Payments are the actual money paid in a given year from the EU budget to cover commitments. Commitments must be honoured with payments, either in the same year or, particularly in the case of multi-year projects, over the following years.

The European Parliament’s rapporteur for the EU’s 2108 budget, Romanian PMP lawmaker Siegfried Mureşan (EPP), deplored that the member countries decided to cut down the Commission’s proposal “mechanically” by €1.2 billion.

“The Council’s position on the EU Draft Budget 2018 is in contradiction with its own political commitments. Member states are proposing indiscriminate, mechanical cuts to the very priorities that they put forward at the beginning of the year,” Mureşan stated.

Reacting to the member states’ position, development and humanitarian organisations Plan International, ONE, Oxfam and Save the Children denounced what they said was a €90 million cut from the development aid budget compared to the Commission’s 2018 draft budget – a decrease of 6.5% compared to 2017.

“Member states’ call to cut development aid at a time of increasing need is short-sighted and unwise. Today’s challenges will become tomorrow’s problems,” stated Valentina Barbagallo, Brussels Policy and Advocacy Manager from the ONE Campaign.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam International’s deputy director for Advocacy and Campaigns, regretted that member states were “increasingly tying aid to their own political interests”, rather than focusing it on the poorest countries and poorest people.Reducing migration towards Europe should not become an indicator for the success of development aid,” she said.

Alexandra Makaroff, Plan International’s EU representative, also said that the member states proposal “seems to be more about serving their own national interests”.

Ester Asin, the director of Save the Children EU Office, regretted that a growing and disproportionate share of the pot is being directed towards crises in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood – increasingly creating forgotten crises elsewhere in the world.

EURACTIV.com asked the Commission on Wednesday to comment on the NGOs’ criticisms, but didn’t receive an answer until the time of the publication of this article.

The Council of the European Union and European Parliament together agree on the final budget. A specific Conciliation Committee is convened to reconcile the positions of the Parliament and the Council.

The European Parliament Committee on Budgets will lay down its position on the draft 2018 EU budget in votes on the 25 and 28 September and on 10 October. The plenary vote is expected to take place on 25 October.