Unlike Malta’s Karmenu Vella, who was targeted by MEPs hoping to reveal his weaknesses through his hearing, the screening of Croatia’s Neven Mimica, Commissioner-designate for Development held yesterday (29 September) appeared to be a formality.
Mimica, a diplomat, and the first commissioner for his country since Croatia’s EU accession in June 2013, sailed through his hearing without difficulty, and without pressure from MEPs. Unlike other commissioners who were quizzed by several parliament committees, only the Development committee was responsible for Mimica’s hearing.
In contrast to Vella, Commissioner-designate for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who took criticism from over 40 MEPs, Mimica, who is of socialist affiliation, spoke to a small number of legislators in an almost empty meeting room. He also appeared to benefit from the holding in parallel of the hearing for Günther Oettinger, Commissioner-designate for Digital Economy and Society, which attracted much greater media attention.
Mimica, an economist by training, who negotiated Croatia’s accession, has been suspected of having little interest in the Development portfolio. But Croatian sources told EURACTIV that to the contrary, both Zagreb and the Commissioner-designate thought it was a “perfect portfolio”, as development aid will feature high in the EU’s priorities over the next five years.
In his opening remarks, Mimica outlined the three priorities of his prospective mandate.
The first priority, he said, was to help achieve an ambitious post-2015 millennium goals framework. The first millennium goals have delivered positive results, he said, adding that this should not lead to complacency. He argued that even against the background of the positive results, a woman in Africa is 29 times more likely to die as a result of child birth than a mother in Europe. Another example Mimica gave is that around 750 million people, worldwide, do not have access to drinking water.
Also worrying are rising inequalities and geographical gaps, with Sub-Saharan Africa lagging behind, with 120 million more people living in absolute poverty than 20 years ago, Mimica said.
The Commissioner-designate argued that the new post-2015 framework must address the social, economic and environmental dimensions, that it must integrate human rights and democratic values and the rule of law, as well as peace and security. It will be a challenge to bring those elements together in a single framework applying to all countries, rich and poor, Mimica said.
The Croatian nominee noted that member states have committed to invest at least 0.7% of their GNI in development aid by 2015, but this target remains out of reach. He therefore urged that member states to honour this commitment under the new framework.
Under the new post-2015 framework, the EU would strive to encourage countries toward good governance, exploit innovative financial tools, involve other development partners, include businesses, civil society, Mimica said.
The second priority outlined by Mimica is to negotiate and launch a post-Cotonou framework, and to strengthen the Union’s strategic partnership with Africa. The Cotonou agreement is a treaty between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP countries), signed in 2000 in the largest city of Benin for a period of 20 years, being subject to revision every 5 years.
The question is how to best design the cooperation with the ACP countries in the future, Mimica argued, adding that if confirmed, he would launch a broad consultation process in the coming years.
Mimica’s third priority is the coherence and coordination in the Commission work. Development policy must work with foreign and security policies, humanitarian aid, trade, and immigration policies, he said. The commissioner-designate also committed to strive to further improve coherence under the lead of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.
Mimica argued that development policy forms an integral part of the EU’s External Action service, its objective being to reduce and in the long term to eradicate poverty.
“It is a policy for the people,” he explained, adding that solidarity is one of the EU core values. He mentioned the need of solidarity “with those living on less that a euro per day” and with “those who risk their lives to reach European coasts in boats that often become their coffins”.
Mimica also argued that development policy aims for partnerships based on mutual interests. When fragile states collapse or when terrorism expands in Africa, it is a direct threat to Europe, he said.
The nominee stated that 83% of Europeans consider that it is important to help people in developing countries, 61% say aid should be increased, and 70% of Europeans believe that helping developing countries helps Europe too.
“We must show development policy works and make our collective achievements more visible”, Mimica said.
Mimica added that 2015 will be the European year of development. “It’s the ideal opportunity to engage with our citizens and explain how development policy helps us all”, he said.
The Commissioner-designate said he would insist on Europe upholding its leading role of global champion in sustainable development.
MEPs didn’t really try to destabilise Mimica. The only difficult part appeared to be his quizzing on what policies he would uphold regarding corporate responsibility in the case of conflict minerals. He said that he would review the current voluntary self-certification scheme, in which companies declare their products’ mineral components were not sold by warlords to fuel bloody conflicts.
Concord, an NGO active in development, congratulated Mimica for his new commissioner mandate on Twitter even before the hearing had ended.