In Defence of European Development Policies

We are all aware of the relatively high level of well-being here in Europe, when we take a more panoramic view over the entire world. We are privileged and therefore we feel the need to give back to the other less developed peoples on Earth. Also, Europe feels a sense of guilt for historical unfairness in relation to former colonialist practices. As a consequence, the economically, socially and politically advanced EU has been trying a to pursue a ‘pay back’ development policy  to less developed countries.

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Source: Rupert [email protected]

But let’s not delay any longer. What kind of interest does the EU pursue with its aid and trade policies? What about the interests of the countries affected by such EU policies? This article will try to give an answer to these questions by taking a closer look at the EU-ACP relation. For those of us who are not familiar with it, the acronym ACP stands for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, a group of states that decided to find a collaborative solution to poverty reduction, sustainable development and integration into the world’s economy.

In order to respond to the question of this article , first I will talk about development from EU’s perspective. Then I will take a particular case to see how the EU applies its agenda to one of the countries. Another important aspect I am keeping close is the common sense fact that the EU represents the interests of European citizens since its activities are funded by EU taxpayers.

The EU-ACP relationship is currently regulated by the second revision of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement. The positive uniqueness of this relationship comes from the historical bonds between EU states and their former colonies but generally there is a feeling of discontent due to the replacement of the Lomè Convention, which from the EU side was conclusively ineffective and plagued by absorption issues, reduction of ACP’s share of global trade and lack of a production/export diversification for the ACP side .

ACP EU Kinshasa

© European Union 2010 [email protected]

But what is more generally EU’s approach to development? The main documents in this regard are the 2006 European Consensus on Development and the more recent 2011 Agenda for Change. Both reveal an inspiration from UN’s Millennium Development Goals, with the first paper expressing right from the start a moral obligation to fight global poverty. The second paper underlines a EU particular trait, the connection between development and security as justification for the political dimension of the EU-ACP dialogue. In this sense, the need for democracy, human rights and the rule of law is a condition for sustainable development. Therefore, the EU sees in development both an end (eliminating poverty) and a means (security and trade enabler).

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The two sides of any development policy are aid and trade. As far as aid is concerned, the main instrument of the EU is the EDF. The 10th EDF introduced a distribution mechanism which released part of the aid to recipient countries on the basis of governance commitments. While some view this as limitative to the recipient countries, I consider it a reasonable way to ensure a better use of the aid by requiring from recipients an effective system of governance/administration. Two things must be remembered. First, when aid fails, aid loses support. Recipient countries who make good use of aid should not see their help reduced because other countries are more corrupt. The EU is aware of this so it rationalized and synchronized the distribution of aid to the most needy sectors with the member states. Conditionality offers a basic criteria necessary for judging the potential effectiveness of aid. Second, an overgrowing increase in the EDF cannot be easily justified to taxpayers in times of fiscal turmoil. The 11th EDF brings an increase of 10 billion euros. No wonder why the EP wants more control over future aid, which I consider to be in line with the democratic oversight of EU affairs. Moreover, even critics of EU aid policy recognize that the recipient countries see their voices increase in the international fora and negotiations, meaning that conditionality is not an obstacle to development cooperation.

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Source: Alf [email protected]

Despite much controversy, in 2012 the ACP was EU’s 5th trading partner, while for the ACP countries the EU remains number one regardless of China’s rise. Much of the debate over trade has to do with the elimination of trading preferences but the CPA must be in line with WTO regulations, organization which anyway offered a waiver to the EU-ACP trade partnership in the form of EPA which is a defensive instrument supportive of regional integration in the face of a competitive world economy. I believe that not following WTO rules would endanger both the EU as an international actor and the international system itself by robbing international institutions of power and legitimacy. A further interesting side of EU trade must be policy coherence,specifically the separation between trade as development tool and development concerns under the trade policy. In the first case, the EU is more supportive of international development but such concerns unfortunately are put in danger by big interests when considering the more general , neoliberal EU trade policy.

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Before proceeding to the next part of the answer I would state that my opinion is mainly anti-criticism of EU’s development policy, as can be easily seen above. It is one of the reasons for choosing Cuba as analysis object. Cuba’s case proves my view that the EU is easily criticized no matter which position it assumes. So far, EU political conditionality is promoted as an obstacle for ACP countries by critics. Meanwhile, the EU is criticized both for not intervening politically in Castro’s affairs and accused of investing in an authoritarian country. The reality on the ground is however that the EU does apply political conditionality to Cuba, which is the reason why no cooperation agreement has been signed and that the EU treated its Havana partners pragmatically depending on the political situation there. I believe this to be in line with EU’s general foreign policy which is not ideologically driven but practical and acceptative of socio-political diversity. Also it is in the interest of Cuba’s domestic political situation.

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Source: Beverley [email protected]

Regarding trade and aid, the EU was in 2011 Cuba’s main donor, second investor and first commercial partner. Very recently, the Council of the EU initiated a next phase in its development cooperation with Cuba, envisioning stronger ties, modernization and constructive dialogue. Furthermore, the 6 million euro aid released by the EU after Hurricane Sandy shows a constant interaction with the Carribean, Cuba included and also an issue-approach to EU aid matters. It could be argued that the sum is not large but it supports Cuban recovery after the disaster, under bad economic circumstances worsened by the US embargo.

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To conclude my answer, I will restate what I have found out while responding to the question. First, there is a general negative sentiment towards the replacement of the Lomè Convention but also that the special treatment guaranteed then was overall ineffective. Second, the EU trying to align itself with the international arena, in this case with WTO standards but continues to give limited special treatment to ACP countries through EPAs and to LDC through EBA. Third, there is a strong criticism against EU conditionality but also a criticism of too little conditionality in Cuba’s case. Continuing with Cuba, we can see a pragmatic EU development approach meant not to suffocate the economy of the country by offering aid, investing and trading with Havana partners. Also, the EU promotes political change from within in the country, thus putting high value on sovereignty and free domestic affairs. In this sense, EU sees its trade relations unaltered, its soft-power exercised and recipient countries see their independence unchallenged and modernization, including the political one supported and not imposed.

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Claudiu Sonda
Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.