Simon, Mikaela Gavas and Deborah Johnson were in Brussels for a public debate on the European Think Tanks Group Report, hosted by Friends of Europe, and for a series of meetings with DG Development and our think tank colleagues. The visit came just a few days after the publication of the Spring Package, on which Simon and Mikaela had written a blog; and also on the day that the Foreign Affairs Council was debating the arrangements for the new External Action Service, on which we also had a blog.
The European Think Tanks Group is organising a fourth Ermenonville event, this time organised by the German Development Institute/ DIE (ODI organised the second one in April 2009 in London). It is planned for 15 & 16 September, in Bonn.
We proposed the capacity of the EUEuropean Union development system as a possible overarching theme, with specific thematic sessions possibly on the MDGsMillennium Development Goals (the event will come a week before the New York Summit), climate, security/ fragile states/ state building, managing globalisation, MICs.
Friends of Europe event:
Hosted by Friends of Europe, the European Think Tanks Group held a public event – ‘After Lisbon: Streamlining EUEuropean Union development cooperation’ – in the Bibliotheque Solvay. The event followed on from the launch of the Group’s Report – New Challenges, New Beginnings – in the European Parliament in March. This meeting focused mainly on the External Action Service. It was very well attended, with around 200 people in the audience, with Poul Skytte Christofferson, Special Adviser to Ashton on the European External Action Service (EEAS), speaking alongside Simon and Paul Engel (ECDPM) on the panel. Christofferson gave a review of where discussions on the EEAS and development’s place within it have reached, reaffirming that the desire is to place development within a much more coherent, whole country approach. Simon reminded the group not to lose sight of the ultimate goal – poverty reduction, fairness – in the current preoccupation with technical institutional detail. He promoted cross-thinking and a more integrated approach, whilst safe-guarding development. Paul expanded on the ways in which a development-oriented EEAS could be built: ensuring a strongly equipped EEAS, ensuring PCD, safeguarding development cooperation and working on qualitative programming.
The Council meeting on Monday (26th) had approved Ashton’s proposal on the formation of the EAS. It is clear that all geographic functions within DG Dev will be moved into the EAS. Questions still remain, however, around where the rest of Dev will go. There are currently 3 options on the table: (1) DG Dev remains separate, (2) merger with AidCo, and (3) moves entirely into the EAS.
The Spring Package
There was general consensus within the Commission that the Spring Package (Twelve Point Action Plan to achieve the MDGs), announced last week, was strong. We learnt from that, although there can be no additional funds for the MDGsMillennium Development Goals within the constraints of the current Financial Perspectives, there would be a reallocation of money following the Mid-Term Reviews of the Country Strategy Papers, to focus on the most off-track countries and the most off-track MDGs. The key message of the Spring Package is that it’s not just the Commission that must continue the drive towards the MDGs, but that the Member States must also play their part. It also contains the message that achieving the MDGsMillennium Development Goals is not simply about money, but also about donor and recipient country policies. The Package will be the key input from Piebalgs to the Summit in September.
The European Development Days 2010
The EDDs this year will be hosted by the Belgian Presidency in Brussels, on December 6 and 7. They will be preceded by the EU-Africa Summit the week before, in Libya. We learnt that the EDDs will be a smaller event than Stockholm, given venue size, but that it aims to have similarly strong side events. There will be a ‘Music Against Poverty’ competition across Europe, with the final on December 5 – a young people’s Eurovision . . . We (EDCSP) have offered to organise a public session, and will also organise a breakfast for the European change-makers.
It has become increasingly apparent, during many of our discussions on the organisation of EUEuropean Union development cooperation, that capacity, particularly in the Commission, is one of the most significant issues. We have begun some comparative work on the EC, World Bank and UN, and it is clear that the Commission is underequipped for the role it needs to perform. A future strand of work for EDCSP could usefully be a capacity review of the Commission.