Juncker to announce African trust fund

Neven Mimica [Georgi Gotev]

Speaking to a small number of journalists today (7 September) Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said that Commission President will announce on Wednesday (9 September) a special “trust fund” for Africa, aimed at dealing with the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Mimica met with the press ahead of the United Nations summit at the level of Heads of State Summit, which is expected to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York (25-27 September).

In the meantime, on 9 September Juncker is to deliver his first State of the Union speech, a novelty introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It is widely expected that Juncker will present proposals for how to deal with the refugee crisis that is overwhelming Europe.

Mimica said that Juncker will “very clearly define” a package that would address the many aspects of the refugee crisis, be it from the home affairs and security angle, or home resettlement and relocation.

In the development field, the effort would translate into a proposed “trust fund” for the regions from where most of the migrants originate. He mentioned the Sahel, the lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa and the north of the continent. Reportedly the fund will total more than €1.5 billion.

But this should not be taken as the only development angle of the migration crisis, Mimica said. The goal was to better pool the resources available, including Home Affairs funding or Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) funding, in order to facilitate the return and the reintegration of migrants, or preventing new departures.

“The primary goal of our development intervention in migration issues is reintegration, or integration of people in their countries of origin,” said Mimica, explaining that this would improve the economic climate, the training and education in the countries of origin and of transit, and also their migration management capacities.

“It must be seen as a comprehensive package of internal and external action, of return and integration policies that we would like to facilitate,” said Mimica, describing the trust fund.

Asked by EURACTIV to comment on the fact that the refugee crisis is depleting some developing countries from their middle class, Mimica said this was indeed true, and that the EU response would definitely take into account this fact “very seriously”. But he said that sadly the damage done would take a long time to be repaired.

At least €4 billion euro increase in ODA needed every year

Asked if one could speak of “business as usual” in the development field against the background of the refugee crisis, Mimica said that the measurement would be if EU countries and EU funds are able to mobilise at least an additional €4 billion of official development assistance (ODA) per year.

In that case, the EU would be able to meet its commitment of reaching the 0.7% of GNI for ODA by 2030, he explained.

“So far we are on that trajectory. Last year, in 2014, the overall European increase for ODA was €2 billion, coming to [a total] of €58 billion, which is half of the global ODA. This year, in 2015, in spite of the announcement of the decrease announced in some member states, the overall increase will be much more than in 2014, even coming to €4 or €5 billion.

“I cannot say who in the end will be right, those who are less optimistic in the capacities of the member states and of the EU to really reach the 0.7% target, or those who are more optimistic, like me and my services in the Commission,” Mimica stated.

Together with Norway, the EU is the only entity to have taken at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa last July the commitment to reach the 0.7% by 2030, Mimica said. He added that in foreign affairs, the EU was perceived as a “soft power”, but in development affairs, the EU was the strongest actor.

The Commissioner was very optimistic about the outcome of the UN summit in New York on the Sustainable Development goals, which he called a “done deal”, based on a draft adopted last August and titled “Transforming our World: the 20130 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. 

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