End of July, the five-day special meeting of the European Council concluded with an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the European Union (EU) and the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery instrument. From a development policy perspective, the outcomes are deeply disappointing. In our statement, we call for substantial reallocations to be made in the EU budget, in line with Europe’s international responsibilities.
The EU budget is expected to total 1,824.3 billion euro during the 2021-2027 period (MFF: 1,074.3 billion euro; NGEU: 750 billion euro). Compared to the European Commission’s draft of May 2020, there have been significant cuts under the “Neighbourhood and the world” heading. Initially, 102 billion euro was proposed for international cooperation, but this budget item has now been reduced to 98.4 billion euro.
Of the 750 billion euro allocated to the NGEU recovery instrument, no funds are earmarked for international cooperation. Originally 15.5 billion was planned. Under the European Commission’s proposal, the separate Humanitarian Aid Instrument was to receive an additional five billion euro from the NGEU. This response to rapidly growing humanitarian needs around the world in the wake of the corona pandemic was based on the United Nations’ Global Humanitarian Response Plan. Yet the European Council has cut the planned extra funding from the NGEU entirely.
In many countries of the Global South, the corona pandemic and associated isolation measures are already having fatal effects. Health care systems are reaching breaking point, commercial enterprises are ceasing production, unemployment and poverty are increasing. The United Nations expects the number of starving people in the world to double by the end of 2020. It is therefore vital to develop and expand local social security systems and functioning health care systems, and strengthen inclusive economic development.
Though the EU Member States once again confirmed their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, a strengthened partnership with Africa, and a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, these goals are not reflected in the decisions taken by the European Council on future EU spending. The European Parliament has already formulated its own demands in this regard; now it should call for significant improvements in the areas of sustainable development and humanitarian aid in the upcoming budget discussions.
You can read the full VENRO statement on the special European Council meeting here (PDF, three pages).