By Liliana Caraca
The world woke up on 8th November for a very significant day in Europe’s history. Because in Brussels, we had an important mission! Early in the morning, ONE Youth Ambassadors met at Schuman roundabout in the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels. Our objective? A poster action targeting the 28 European finance ministers as they negotiate the European Union’s budget for next year.
At 6 am, everyone was ready for action with posters in one hand and a stapler in the other. The posters were spread around the building where the negotiations for the 2017 EU budget are taking place right now!
One poster at a time, we highlighted the fact that yesterday’s solutions no longer work today. The EU sets its maximum budget limits for a period of 7 years, and the last time it did so was in 2013. But these limits are no longer suitable for today’s world. Since 2013, we are facing new challenges and unexpected circumstances such as humanitarian crises and a high number of refugees, not only in Europe but all around the world.
More than ever, Europe needs to remain a global leader on foreign policy to show leadership and long-term vision to address and prevent these crises. For this reason, the EU will need to mobilise additional funding to cover for the needs of refugees without doing so at the expense of the development aid budget.
So, the 2017 EU Budget must, aside from responding to the refugee crisis, increase investments for humanitarian and development aid beyond the old limits established back in 2013.
This message was at the heart of our action. In spite of our sleepy eyes, this was one of the most fun awareness raising actions that I have done as a Youth Ambassador this year. A few hours later, European Commission Vice-President for the Budget and Human Resources, Kristalina Georgieva acknowledged the campaign on Twitter. What’s more, she accepted to meet with us so we could give her our petition which has now been signed by over 30,000 European citizens like you and me!
Fast forward to the next Monday, when we met with Vice President Georgieva. As Vice President for Budgets, her role is crucial in securing additional funding for the EU’s external policies and she has extensive experience on development and humanitarian assistance policy. During our discussion, she reassured us that the European Commission is trying its best to find ways to liberate funding for development aid in the budget.
However, the European Commission is not alone in making the decision and must negotiate with colleagues in the European Parliament as well as representatives from the 28 Member States to reach a compromise. The budget could be agreed upon in the next three days and it will be up to all three institutions to ensure that humanitarian aid, for one, is increased since last year. After all, only 50% of humanitarian needs are being met right now and 130 million people are still in need of urgent support.
As you can imagine, this week is crucial for meeting Europe’s promise to help end extreme poverty by 2030. Let’s get the message across to EU leaders so that together we can increase financing for development aid as well as humanitarian assistance!