The European Union must adapt its development aid to new challenges, like the migration crisis, and the fight against climate change, Danièle Lamarque told EURACTIV France.
Danièle Lamarque has been a member of the External Action chamber of the European Court of Auditors since 2014.
Lamarque spoke with Cécile Barbière.
As the French member of the European Court of Auditors, what are your priorities and your responsibilities within this monitoring authority?
I came from the French Court of Auditors, so I brought with me my own culture and working habits. What is interesting in the European Court of Auditors is that there are 28 members, one per member state, with a wide variety of professional backgrounds and personal profiles.
A quarter of the members are professional auditors, and half have had a political career, which helps in our relations with the Parliament. The last quarter come from the world of finance. This is also very useful, because one of Europe’s major tasks is to enforce the new financial mechanisms put in place since the crisis.
This cultural, professional and linguistic diversity is unique to Europe and enriches our work.
Each member state has a supervisory institution, but this is not always a court of auditors. Cooperation between the 28 authorities is particularly active, because their presidents meet with the European Court of Auditors every year to share best practices and discuss the main European issues.
These meetings between the European and national authorities are indispensable, as 80% of the European funds are spent in the member states.
It became clear during the most recent European elections that the European Union is often misunderstood. Brussels is often perceived as a technocratic world that subjugates the member states. Our role is to challenge the received ideas and improve Europe by making it more transparent.
What does your work in the European Court of Auditors consist of?
I am a member of the External Action chamber. I deal with the EU’s external action and European development funds in the annual report, but also with special reports on subjects of particular importance. The Court publishes between 20 and 30 of these reports each year.
We are currently planning a special report on immigration and asylum policies for December. This will question the EU’s cooperation with third countries from a foreign policy angle.
I have also started another report on the fiscal resources of developing countries: (on) how these countries can build efficient tax collection systems, make best use of their natural resources and ensure that businesses pay their taxes in the developing countries where they make their profits. The report will also address the question of tax harmonisation from the point of view of developing countries.
2015 is a pivotal year for development policy, with the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the international climate conference (COP 21) in Paris this December. In this context, the Court of Auditors is also organising a conference on post 2015 development policy.
Migration has become a central issue in international cooperation.
It is clear that today’s migration and development aid policies should be directly linked.
One of the main questions is what Europe should do with the economic migrants that it doesn’t want. Whether we should let them come because we need the labour force, let them come but make them leave once they have gained experience and training that can be used to benefit their home countries, or simply stop them coming altogether so their local economies don’t lose out. These are crucial questions, and they are not easy to answer.
Opinion among demographers is deeply split between support for economic immigration as a way to fill the gaps in the labour market, and political opposition to mass immigration.
Climate change is also dominating the development policy agenda. Does European aid take this into account?
The Sustainable Development Goals, which will take over from the Millennium Development Goals, do take this environmental dimension into account. The climate is a real issue for developing countries.
EU aid for the fight against climate change is already important in particularly fragile countries, and will become an essential part of future development assistance. But more still needs to be done on the classic objectives, like reducing poverty.
The Commission has 22 multilateral channels for climate action with the EU member states. Maybe the COP 21 will help us to better coordinate the subject, because efficiency is not aided by having so many actors.
The EU is one of the major donors of development aid. What is your assessment of this policy?
We, the auditors, have to ensure that the European Commission has the necessary means to make its aid efficient.
There have been improvements, but the progress has not been spectacular. In a domain where we work together with the Commission, the member states and developing countries, it is hard to gauge the impact and the efficiency of EU aid, particularly in very poor countries.
But what we can see is that the European Union’s practices are improving. The EU is often criticised for its lack of coordination with the member states, but this is not always its own fault. The Commission has strengthened its coordination and improved its structure.
How can aid be made more efficient?
Today there are new participants in development assistance and the rules of the game are changing. Multinationals and foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is richer than some states, have become major players.
And the big emerging economies like China and Brazil, which once benefited from development assistance, are now becoming donors. These new actors make great use of tied aid (aid that must be spent in the donor country). Their aid also comes with less demanding conditions on human rights and good governance, which remain the cornerstones of European development policy.
How can we ensure that all this works efficiently? As far as possible, we have to develop a system based on results. But there is still doubt over whether aid even works at all.