No, development has not fallen off the EU’s radar

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Commissioner Georgieva in action. [European Commission]

Alexandre Polack, Commission spokesperson for development, replies to an opinion article by Joren Verschaeve, a PhD student at Ghent University, who claims that the Commissioner nominations for Development and for Humanitarian aid indicate that those portfolios are not seen as important.

Alexandre Polack is the spokesperson of Andris Piebalgs, the commissioner responsible for Development in the Barroso commission.

Mr Verschaeve, I read your comments with interest, and am pleased to note that you recognise the fact that the European Union has long been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate poverty and will continue to have an important role to play in the discussions on the post 2015 framework, where the replacements for the current Millennium Development Goals will be put in place.

However, there are several points which I take issue with in your blog; in particular, the idea that development has fallen off the EU’s radar. I can assure you that, on the contrary, international development has never been so important or relevant to the European Commission. That’s why next year has been named the European Year for Development – the first ever European Year to be focused on foreign affairs and a once in a lifetime opportunity to put our work on reducing poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries in the spotlight.

Secondly; you seem to be suggesting that a Commissioner from a smaller EU country is not taken as seriously as one from a larger member state. You cannot equate the size of the country with what is achieved in office – as Commissioner Piebalgs (as a Latvian) or his fellow Commissioner Georgieva (from Bulgaria) have shown over the last Commission with their firm commitment to development and humanitarian aid.

We have a very impressive story to tell to EU taxpayers on how their support is making a difference all over the world. For instance, since 2004, we’ve immunised 18.3 million children against measles, got 13.7 million new pupils into primary education, and ensured that 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel.

We have adapted our development policy to make it more focused on those countries that need it most, and those sectors which improve the most the lives of the world’s poorest. We now target our assistance on areas that are drivers for change and economic growth, such as governance, agriculture, energy, health and education.

We are also working to ensure that the benefits of development aid are not diminished by other EU policies, but enhanced thanks to them. For instance a new groundbreaking EU law on accountability and transparency helps to fight tax evasion and corruption, and guarantees that citizens are able to benefit from their own natural resources. 

Let’s use 2015 to continue to let EU citizens know that every cent of every euro they spend on development aid is being used to provide a decent life for all.

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