A little under a year since its launch, the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa is largely financed with EU development money and has failed to convince Members of the European Parliament, who warn about diversion of aid to stem migration flows from authoritarian regimes. EURACTIV France reports.
Conceived as a response to the development challenges in migrants’ home countries – mainly in the Sahel region, the Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa and North Africa – the €1.8 billion fund lacks the financing it needs to fulfill its promises, MEPs said.
On Tuesday (13 September) European lawmakers adopted a critical report on EU development funding by Ignazio Corrao, an Italian MEP from the Five Star Movement of the populist politician and activist Beppe Grillo.
The report was voted by a comfortable majority, of 511 to 126.
Contribution of €81 million
First among the report’s criticisms is the lack of funds allocated to the instrument proposed at last year’s migration summit in Valletta.
“The contributions from member states have been too small,” the report said.
“As a result, they are a long way from meeting the official commitment, with a total of just €81.71m in April 2016 (4.5% of the €1.8bn planned),” it added.
Yet the Trust Fund originally aimed to allow states to make direct contributions, so as to boost the European Commission’s upfront investment.
Member states’ minimal contributions to the fund have generally been just generous enough to grant them access to the fund’s council of administration, but have gone no further.
And this lack of generosity is not the only problem facing the Trust Fund for Africa. The European Commission even dug into its own development aid credits to capitalise the new financial instrument.
MEPs believe that the diversion of money earmarked for development into this fund will negatively “impact the African countries that receive aid but are not covered by the Trust Fund”.
For Spanish socialist MEP Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, the very existence of the fund is evidence of “the European budget’s inability to adapt to new circumstances”. And despite the bloc’s growing list of challenges, the 2017 draft European budget has been cut, with big reductions tabled for development aid.
The budget cuts were confirmed on Monday (12 September) by the EU Council of Ministers, which represents the 28 EU member states. The budget under the revised plan includes a cut of almost 10% to the EU’s development credits.
The move was described as “unacceptable” by Manfred Weber, the head of the Parliament’s centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group, who spoke at a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
“The leaders of European countries spend their time saying we should respond to the problems in the migrants’ countries of origin, then they cut funding for development aid,” Weber said.
Risk of misuse
Another concern expressed by MEPs is that these funds may be used to prop up “governments responsible for human rights violations”.
“This money will go to Eritrea, Somalia or Ethiopia to make them act as the guards of Europe’s borders instead of spending it on schools, drinkable water or healthcare,” warned Spanish GUE/NGL MEP Marina Albiol Guzmán.
“We are trying to strengthen borders using poor countries, countries that are war-torn or suffering from dictatorships to serve our purposes,” she added.
But Commission spokesman Christos Stylianides resolutely denied that this was a possibility during the debate. “I am firmly convinced that the Trust Fund supports programmes in the migrants’ countries of origin, which aim to create jobs,” he said.