The European Union EU
The European Union (EU) and its 27 member states together account for over half of all Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided around the world. In 2008, the proportion was almost 60%, amounting to around EUR 49 billion. As the largest donor worldwide, the European Union thus plays a pivotal role in international cooperation – especially in terms of development policy issues.
The EU is a key player in development cooperation because of the considerable resources it deploys, its significance as the world's largest trading bloc and its political initiatives. Responsibilities within EU development cooperation are mixed. Besides the efforts of the individual member states, there is also common development cooperation and policy, which is under the control of the EU Commission. Administered from Brussels, these funds constitute about one fifth of the EU’s total development aid. In recent years, the EU has been endeavouring to improve the coordination of member states’ activities. At the end of 2005, the EU member states adopted the European Consensus on Development, which defines the common vision of EU development policy.
To assist in the development of poor countries, the EU maintains three specifically targeted financing instruments:
- the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI),
- the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)
- the European Development Fund (EDF).
The EU uses the EDF to invest the bulk of its development aid in ACP countries (ACP = Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) while a smaller proportion goes to Latin America and Asia.
The cornerstone of European development cooperation is the Cotonou Agreement, which has partnered the EU with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific since 2000. The purpose of the Agreement, which focuses on fostering political dialogue, development cooperation and economic and trade relations, is to combat poverty and promote the sustainable development of the ACP countries and their gradual integration into the world economy. The allocation of resources is contingent on democratic standards, good governance and respect for human rights. In 2005, the European Union and the ACP countries signed a revised Cotonou Agreement. The aim was to make the previous agreement more effective and improve the partnership between the EU and the ACP countries. The second revision of the Cotonou Agreement was signed in 2010 and subjected its provisions to further changes.
The EU’s “Everything But Arms” initiative (EBA) benefits the poorest countries in the world, known as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which according to OECD criteria number about 50 countries. Under this initiative, all exports from LDC countries into EU territory are exempted from taxes, quotas and customs duties – with the exception of exports of arms and munitions. Sensitive areas in the still highly subsidised agricultural sector – bananas, sugar and rice – were subject to special provisions until 2005. The EBA initiative was subsequently incorporated into the GSP Regulation (GSP = Generalised System of Preferences). This initiative allows the special conditions for LDCs to be maintained for an unlimited period without having to be regularly revised according to the EU’s general preferences.
When ten additional countries joined the EU in 2004, it developed a new policy covering the neighbouring or surrounding regions of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and currently involves 16 partner countries. The EU is investing substantial funds in this "European Neighbourhood Policy”(ENP), which is directed at countries beyond the EU's new external border such as Moldova and Ukraine.
Switzerland is not an EU member but it participates in development policy debates of the donor countries. This takes place mainly in the framework of the Development Assistance Committees, DAC, where Switzerland is in direct contact with EU members and the EU Commission. Since 2002, Switzerland has also been working with the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) which is independent of the EU.