European Parliament validates Consensus on Development

A farmer in Uganda. Agriculture and development are very closely linked. [Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr]

EU lawmakers yesterday (1 June) waved through the new Consensus on Development. But many criticisms, including on migration controls that feature in the text, have gone unanswered. EURACTIV France reports.

The European Consensus on Development, adopted by the European Parliament in Brussels this Thursday, has divided MEPs and raised the heckles of civil society.

The text, which received the green light from EU ministers on 19 May, aims to unite the global Sustainable Development Goals with the EU’s development policy. This vast undertaking has completely redrawn the European development landscape, meeting with serious resistance along the way.

‘New Consensus’ on Development adopted – and immediately condemned

The ‘New Consensus on Development’ was adopted by EU foreign affairs ministers today (19 May) – and immediately condemned by NGOs working in the field.

Members of the European Parliament’s two largest groups, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP and centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), came out in favour of the consensus in a resolution adopted by 405 votes to 70, with 159 abstentions.

“Development cooperation is crucial for addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement because the countries which are politically stable are less prone to massive expatriations.

“In this context, greater focus has been put on the essential link between development and security and the interdependence between stability, good governance and the rule of law, and long-term development and growth,” said Bogdan Wenta, the EPP group’s rapporteur on the consensus.

Alternative resolution

But members of the Parliament’s centrist ALDE, Green, radical left (GUE/NGL) and Eurosceptic (EFDD) groups presented an alternative resolution, calling on their colleagues to reject the consensus. They argued that it was too heavily focused on migration controls ad security, to the detriment of the fight against poverty.

“This is a step backwards for EU development policy. Instead of putting the fight against poverty first, this revision will prioritise European self-interest,” said Greens/EFA MEP Heidi Hautala.

This parallel resolution only garnered 176 votes but shed light on the weaknesses of the new Consensus on Development already denounced by NGOs.

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Major NGOs gave a guarded welcome today (22 November) to a major once-in-a-decade, overhaul of the EU’s thinking on development.

Among the main stumbling blocks is the document’s insistence on the regulation of migration flows, which have reached unprecedented proportions since 2014.

“Migration is a question of shared interest, particularly with our African partners,” European Commissioner for Development Neven Mimica said during the plenary debate on Wednesday (31 May).

The MEPs that submitted the alternative resolution called on the EU to oppose “any attempts to link aid with border control, the management of migratory flows or readmission agreements”.

INFOGRAPHIC: Refugee crisis leads to boost in European aid spending

Europe is still the world’s leading provider of official development assistance (ODA). In 2015, its international solidarity budget increased sharply to cover the costs of the refugee crisis.

Another sensitive area highlighted by the alternative resolution is that of security spending in countries of the Global South being put through the books as development assistance. Under OECD rules, some security spending can appear in the development column. “But the new Consensus on Development does not mention the rules put in place by the OECD,” one Parliament source said.

0.7% objective

However, it is the financing of the Consensus that raised the biggest murmurs of opposition among MEPs. Both resolutions stressed the importance of establishing a timeline for the attainment of the OECD’s target of dedicating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to official development assistance budgets.

This objective has only been met a handful of EU member states and has regularly been abandoned or pushed into the long grass in response to budget constraints.

“Spending 0.7% of GNI on development is a target that is constantly on the agenda but is never achieved,” said ALDE group MEP Charles Goerens.

“The Consensus states the objective of 0.7% but at the same time some member states have announced that they plan to miss it by a long way. We are facing a real problem of credibility.”

After this green light from the European Parliament, the new Consensus on Development will be adopted by the EU during the European Development Days, which will take place in Brussels on 7 and 8 June.

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