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The European Commission’s road map for (local) Aid Development 0

On 29 and 30 March, the Committee of the Regions (CoR), in partnership with the European Commission organise the Second Assises of Decentralised Cooperation for Development. Few days before the event, Afronline interviewed Aristotelis Bouratsis, Director of DEVCO (for Thematic Operations), a new agency borne out of the merger between EuropeAid and the Directorate-General for Development (DGDEV).

Bouratsis started at the European Commission in 1981 as an administrator. In 2001, he joined the EuropeAid cooperation office where he headed up several units, including the co-financing with NGOs and Relations with civil society and non-state actors. In March 2008, he was named director of Direction F (Thematic Regions) of EuropeAid.

What will be the impact of the new European External Action Service on EU development policy?

The Lisbon Treaty and the new institutional setting for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy have opened the door for better co-ordinated EU and member States policies, programmes and delivery.

By setting new competences in areas of interest for development, such as investment and migration, the Lisbon Treaty provides opportunities for increased coherence between external policy objectives and development policy and actions. In particular, through article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), an important role is given to the Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) agenda, which should contribute to improve the real results of our development cooperation by reducing inconsistencies and promoting synergies between the objectives of internal policies and of the development policy.

DG DEVCO’s setup may not be finalized until April upon a complete merger of the EU’s policymaking. What are DEVCO’s short- and long-term priorities?

This is a challenge and indeed a top priority to finalise the new organisation in the coming weeks. The short-term priority is clearly to ensure that the European Commission continues to deliver on its commitments in terms of aid management while, at the same time, working on the new policy and financial framework, which we expect to be proposed later in the year. This will be a good foundation for bringing together the formulation with the implementation of the development policy.

How the external financing of the EU should look like in the future?

In the course of 2011, the European Commission will submit proposals for the budget from 2014 onwards, the ‘Multiannual Financial Framework’. Commission will present its legislative proposals for the financial instruments of EU external action post 2013.

The European Union is an active global player, with interests and values to promote, and responsibilities to match, towards our partner countries. With the new institutional framework established by the Lisbon Treaty, and raising expectations on the EU to respond to challenges worldwide. It needs to be equipped to address the diverse situations of partner countries around the world, to respond to emerging political priorities and new crisis situations, and to ensure the performance and quality of its financial support.

On the substance, the key principles of our future external financial instruments were established in last October’s Budget Review Communication. They correspond to three basic aims: getting results, seeking financial and political leverage, and striking the right balance, i.e. between predictability and flexibility.

Referring to the Green Paper published by EU Commission on the future of EU development policy, Platforma said it was disappointed that “the actor-based approach had not been mentioned” and “proposed to include decentralisation as another transversal priority of the European development policy”. What role will LRAs play in the implementation of EU programs and in policy dialogue?

Funding allocated by the EU and donors to Local Authorities (LA) has increased in recent years. The main EU external cooperation funding instruments (European Development Funds; European Neighbouring and Partnership Instruments; Development Cooperation Instrument) state that Local Authorities are eligible for funding. In particular, Local Authorities are the beneficiaries of the bilateral programmes between the EU and many of its partner countries supporting decentralisation processes.

The thematic programme “Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development” strengthens the capacity and the role of LA for sustainable development strategies in Europe and in partner countries. In the last three years, these activities have benefitted from a budget equal to 340 million euro per year, in average.

DEVCO will continue to work together with Local Authorities to promote a multi-stakeholders development, in order to improve the quality of peoples’ life.

From a policy point of view, the 2005 European Consensus on Development and the 2008 EC Communication on Local Authorities in Development recognise LA as key actors of development with responsibilities in dealing with territorial and local matters.

We have launched dialogue with Local Authorities and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from the EU and partner countries, so-called “the Structured Dialogue”, with a view to identifying common objectives and mechanisms ensuring that LA and CSO are fully integrated into EU development cooperation. The main results of this consultation process will be shared during the final conference of the Structured Dialogue in Budapest, co-hosted by the Hungarian Presidency in May 2011.

2011 is a year of huge challenges for European Aid development. Among these challenges, there is the 4th High Level Forum on Aid effectiveness in Busan. How can decentralised cooperation help to make aid more efficient?

Here, it is important to recall two factors. First of all, during the Fora on Aid Affectiveness priority was given to national ownership over development policies and activities, particularly those based on external funding. For governments, this meant articulating the national development agenda and establishing reliable policies and strategies. Local Authorities are also autonomous bodies capable of developing in coordination with other players’ development policies and programmes in their own area of responsibilities.

In order to identify the contribution that decentralised cooperation could make to aid effectiveness, it is necessary to look at the five principles of the Paris Declaration (Ownership, Alignment, Harmonization, Managing for Results and Mutual Accountability) through the lens of LA.

Local Authorities, in their legal capacity of representatives of citizens in a defined territory and as agents of development, can play a unique role in analysing and strengthening the aid effectiveness principles by being involved more directly and systematically in all stages of the development process, mobilising local stakeholders, reaching consensus on local policies and development strategies, coordinating interventions and avoiding duplications, and ensuring that aid cooperation channelled through the central government contributes to local development plans and ownership at local level.

How is it possible to increase the impact of the European funds in view of the very difficult budgetary situation?

This is a crucial question in view of the budgetary situation of the EU member States and the EU commitment to the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. In this context, ensuring an better impact and more efficient use of the taxpayers’ money is necessary. High impact consists of two components.

From one side, the EU should aim at making a real difference in terms of the policy change and the reform agenda in partner countries. From the other side, the EU should look at how assist partner countries in ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth, which will reach out the people in terms of employment, better life, more equality and reduced poverty. Inclusive growth could boost a “virtuous” process: it will bring jobs, jobs will generate incomes, part of the incomes will pay taxes, taxes will provide governments with a financial basis to deliver basic services, education, health, social protection.

In this context, high impact may also mean coordination with the very large private funds, available for development. It is thus essential to engage with all donors, private or public like local authorities, towards a higher impact.

The EU highly stresses the role of budget support in development cooperation, but experts from ACP countries say this instrument does not sufficiently involve LRAs. Do you agree?

Budget support is a useful instrument. Centered on the concept of national ownership of partner countries, budget support can bring about policy change and to assist governments to adopt good governance and sustainable economic policies. I believe it is a valuable instrument, as budget support induces a policy dialogue with partner governments on the direction of their economic policy as well as of sector policies.

The Structured Dialogue has examined the possibility to use direct budget support to Local and Regional Authorities, and the possibility to use this modality is now being explored by the Commission services. Increased participation of LA is indeed an important issue for the EU. We have put this, among other questions, in public consultation on the Green Paper on the Future of EU Budget Support to Third Countries. The EC will give its feedbacks on the results of the consultation shortly.

By Staff – Afronline

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi