Development and Security: Will European Institutional Changes Help or Hinder Effective Action?

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Transatlantic Taskforce on Development Blog Series:
On both sides of the Atlantic policymakers are struggling with a common problem – how can we forge better cooperation across the so-called three Ds – development, diplomacy and defense? This challenge was well-identified by the Transatlantic Taskforce on Development, which set out a number of recommendations to address this issue. Since the launching of the Taskforce, there have been major policy reviews and debates in the U.S. and Europe on the three Ds. The following blogs by Taskforce members Richard Manning (UK) and Andrew Natsios (U.S.) (Development and Security: Can the United States overcome beltway disputes and elevate Development alongside Defense and Diplomacy? ) represent fresh assessments of the risks and opportunities for Europe and the United States as this debate continues to unfold with implications for transatlantic cooperation.
Development and Security: Will European Institutional Changes Help or Hinder Effective Action?
LONDON - The Transatlantic Taskforce on Development called for the development and security communities to bridge their divisions in support of its vision of genuine ‘human security’. One of the most significant institutional developments in this respect on the European side of the Atlantic has been the detailed preparation – following ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in November 2009 – of the new European External Affairs Service (EEAS) of the European Union and the appointment of Baroness Cathy Ashton as ‘High Representative’ of the EU responsible for foreign affairs.

Will this development radically improve the synergies between ‘Defense, Diplomacy and Development’, or will it in practice sacrifice attention to longer-term development issues in favor of short-term European political and security objectives? Does it have any lessons for the United States?

These questions are worth asking. Although the new structures do not affect the national aid programmes of EU member states, they are vital to the aid planned and managed by the European Union’s central institutions. And not enough people realize that the ‘Country Programmable Aid’ managed by the European Commission (broadly speaking, those forms of aid that support development at country level) is vastly larger than that provided by any EU member state ( In 2007, CPA from the EU was US$8.5 bn, compared to $4.8 bn from the UK, $3.6 bn from France and $2.65bn from Germany (Source, DAC 2009 Report on Aid Predictability, OECD)).

In the past, all this aid was managed by the Commission, with member states setting the broad policies through the Council (with the approval of the European Parliament) and participating also in the ‘Management Committees’, chaired by the Commission, which vet individual activities. The discussion of political aspects of the Union’s external relations, meanwhile, took part in a separate ‘pillar’, in which member states’ Foreign Ministries were the chief actor, with the Commission in a subordinate role. Such a structure tended to keep development and political/security issues apart. This reduced the risk of ‘instrumentalizing’ aid in the service of EU political objectives, but at the cost of maintaining a ‘development-diplomacy divide’ of the kind that the Taskforce wished to see addressed.

The Lisbon Treaty changes the dynamics. The role of the European Parliament vis-à-vis the Council and the Commission has been strengthened, and the Parliament has traditionally given development issues some priority. But the new High Representative (Ashton), supported by the new EEAS, takes control of all EU external policies and chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. The Development Commissioner and the Commissioner responsible for Mediterranean and Eastern neighbors of the EU transfer all their regionally-organized staff as well as overseas staff to the EEAS. The delivery arm of the Commission, EuropeAid or AIDCO, continues to manage the operational aspects of aid, and will now report to the Development Commissioner.

In an intriguing compromise between the Council, Commission and Parliament, it seems that aid spending proposals will be prepared jointly by EEAS and the Commission, but under the responsibility of the Development Commissioner, and then submitted jointly by the Commissioner and the High Representative for decision by the Commission. This does provide some safeguarding of the development objectives in the Treaty, as does the injunction that the EEAS should seek to ensure that these programmes respect the objectives of EU development policy. An additional safeguard is a review of development programming as part of a general review of EEAS proposed for 2013. On the other hand, the High Representative will have the advantage of leading the staff working on the regions concerned.

How will this structure operate in practice? Some difficulties may be expected. The EEAS seems unlikely to be set up with any institutional structure that speaks for the longer-term development issues internally or any obvious career progression for staff with development expertise as opposed to general diplomatic skills. Equally, the rump of the Development Directorate-General may become divorced from the ‘real world’ knowledge of working in the European delegations in-country. The Taskforce vision that the challenges of working in fragile, conflict-prone or post-conflict states ‘should be coordinated by several different branches of government working collectively, preferably led by development professionals’ , seems therefore unlikely to be realized in the case of European Union aid.

Nevertheless, the arrangements show that the European institutions can craft compromises that do recognize development objectives. The outcome is better than might have been feared at the outset. With determination from Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, a cooperative approach by High Representative Cathy Ashton, and close scrutiny by the European Parliament, a more coherent approach to defense, diplomacy and development that does not marginalize the latter is not impossible. The experiment deserves careful attention – on both sides of the Atlantic.