EU ‘antenna’ outposts to submit proposals for bloc development aid

Delegation of the European Union in Erevan, Armenia. 05.09.2018. [Shutterstock/Alexander Chizhenok]

EU delegations are to submit by the end of February their proposals for spending development aid based on consultations in their respective countries, reflecting the bigger role of the diplomatic outposts in hitting assistance targets.

The EU has some 140 delegations and offices around the world, implementing external action policies and funding while representing Brussels politically.

“Our delegations are integral to the programming exercise,” the European Commission chief for international partnerships Jutta Urpilainen told EURACTIV.

“Their role is further emphasised due to the principle of geographisation, which means that significant parts of the resources are channeled through geographic envelopes under the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).”

After suffering some of the biggest cuts during the budget negotiations, the EU’s new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) is set to channel the lion’s share of external action funds in the next seven-year budgetary period, of which more than three-fourths are geographically earmarked for partner countries.

European leaders shaved off €15.2 billion from the new instrument to leave €70.8 billion last summer, though the European Parliament managed to secure €1 billion of extra funds from previous loan repayments.

Under the geographical envelope, the Commission will calculate the share of each partner country based on economic and demographic characteristics, as well as internationally approved indexes such as the Human Development Index.

“Delegations are the backbone of our international partnerships as the antennas on the ground,” Urpilainen said.

The EU offices worldwide will have to submit to Brussels their proposals for spending the aid by the end of February after a consultation with partner country players, — which beyond the government includes private businesses, civil society as well as local and regional authorities, — multilateral institutions, and EU countries.

The programming proposals will translate spending targets, such an overall goal of 30% on climate, into concrete programs, which will be validated centrally by the Commission in the second half of spring.

The EU delegations are also tasked with finding common ground between the Commission, EU countries and multilateral institutions’ spending priorities to pull together one to two projects per country under the “Team Europe” effort — which the EU executive hopes will improve effectiveness of aid, reduce overlaps and increase the negotiating leverage with authorities in recipient countries.

While the increased geographic focus has its backers, European lawmakers made a sticking point to involve MEPs in spending, though the Parliament will not be able to veto country-level programming decisions.

“I do not expect that there would be no problems at all. Therefore, the Parliament’s involvement in following how NDICI is being implemented is very important,” MEP Rasa Juknevičienė, involved in the negotiations, told EURACTIV.

Funding for local action

In an effort to streamline the NDICI, the Commission’s initial proposal for the instrument did not include a specific budget for towns and regions but MEPs managed to secure a minimum half a billion target to be used for local authorities.

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According to Juknevičienė, “this will help to ensure that local authorities will be involved and will receive sufficient financial input for priority projects.”

“Working with local authorities via the geographic programme may take some adjustment but can ensure consistency of EU actions, as EU Delegations and discussion with local stakeholders, will need to examine all the different actions of EU support, including for local authorities,” she added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]


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