The European Parliament Development committee regretted the cuts to the EU's 2014-2020 budget, estimating them at €10 billion, but admitted that much bigger cuts had been anticipated.
The vote on the overall EU budget for 2014-2020 came a day after the Parliament's development committee agreed to cut the European Development Fund 11%. The EDF provides aid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations.
The budget proposal for EU external relations, including aid, is expected to fall by some 13%. The Commission proposed a budget of €70 billion, while the Council opted for €60.67 billion, a difference of €9.3 billion.
The overall EU budget for 2014-2020 is smaller than its predecessor. It goes down to 1% from 1.12% of EU gross national income. It is the first net reduction to the EU budget in history.
Experts ‘expected worse’
Eight members of the development committee signed an open letter last month complaining about budget cuts in development aid and humanitarian assistance at a time when the EU has pledged to take a lead role in future development policy.
Before the vote, MEPs had urged EU ministers to reject a proposal by Council President Herman Van Rompuy to slash the EU’s development and humanitarian aid. Speaking about the portion of the budget allocated for development, MEPs warned that "Cutting this investment would be a false economy and hit the world’s poorest."
The budget deal, the letter says, "should protect this investment which represents only 6% of the total budget and has significant impact. In the past five years it had paid for more than 10 million children to go to primary school and provided 32 million with clean water.”
Although MEPs have voiced concern about cuts in development, much bigger cuts were anticipated.
“We seriously regret that more funds have not been allocated and there is of course a sense of disappointment, but considering the overall environment it could have been far worse” said Lars Bosselman, chairman of the Concord NGO's working group on the budget.
“It will be difficult for the EU to have global credibility without more external funds, but considering the crisis atmosphere many expected even more cuts in the development sector,” he told EURACTIV.
“I voted against the Tirolien report [from the development committee] firstly because it calls for an unrealistic increase in the EDF budget – from €26.984 billion to €30.319 billion - and secondly because it porposes to introduce new sources of EU budget revenue, such as a financial transaction tax, which I fundamentally disagree with,” said British Conservative MEP Nirj Deva.
“At the same time, there have been many paragraphs within the report I fully supported, especially with regards to our commitments to the objectives of the Paris and Accra Declaration, the program for aid effectiveness and the Busan Partnership” he told EURACTIV.
The EU is collectively the largest aid donor, providing more than €54 billion from national governments and EU institutions – or 55% of the world total in 2011, according to OECD figures.
European leaders have traditionally seen overseas aid as an extension of their “soft power,” agreeing to provide annual development aid equivalent to 0.7% of gross national income by 2015.
Those targets are now in doubt in several countries that are struggling with their own fiscal woes.
- Summer 2013: The European Parliament will vote on the EU budget.
- Committee on Development: A Human Rights and Poverty Review
- Concord position paper: Concord Analysis on MEP Tirolien Report on 11th EDF Final