More than two years after the first proposal, three inconclusive summits, a global pandemic, a revised proposal, five counter-proposals, and a European Council meeting that lasted four days and nights, EU leaders reached a deal on the EU long-term budget and the newly created recovery fund to tackle the socio-economic impacts of the COVID crisis in the early hours on 21 July.
Good news? Well, it’s great that EU leaders were able to converge, but in the process of reaching the deal, the budget for EU development aid was slashed. Considering that we are still in the middle of a global crisis that is leading to global inequalities, this doesn’t seem a smart choice!
Everything you need to know about the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is explained here. If you are already a pro, go ahead and read below.
What happened over the course of the four (long!) days and nights of negotiations on the EU budget by EU leaders?
In contrast with the ambitious revised proposal tabled by the European Commission two months ago, EU leaders agreed on deep cuts to the overall EU’s external action budget (the so-called Heading 6), reducing the funding available for international development by €15 billion. Funding to the world’s most vulnerable regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa which is home to 70% of the world’s least developed countries and 51% of the world’s fragile states, was also reduced. These funds are key if we want to achieve the EU’s strategic foreign policy objectives, and see more African countries become prosperous, peaceful and resilient, as Member States recently reaffirmed.
What did we want EU leaders to deliver?
ONE called on Member States to agree to the revised budget of €118.2 billion for the EU’s external action, with €86 billion for international development, as proposed by the European Commission in May. An ambitious budget would allow long-term investments in partner countries, rather than hasty responses to emergencies. Since the pandemic began, the EU has diverted 6 times more funding to help partner countries deal with the crisis in one year than it invested in health in partner countries over 7 years.
Moreover, such a budget would have been necessary to deliver the EU’s geopolitical ambitions and create a true partnership with Africa.
The revised Commission’s proposal has been rejected by EU leaders, but not everything is lost — the European Parliament has its say and it is not happy with the MFF deal and with cuts to overseas aid!
What does the European Council’s outcome mean for ONE?
These cuts send an alarming signal on European solidarity with the rest of the world. They will impact the EU’s ability to tackle the greatest issues facing our generation, such as rising extreme poverty, inequality, the climate emergency and future pandemics. They are being proposed against a backdrop of a global health crisis and the resulting economic and social impacts, including:
- 28.2-49.2 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in Africa this year alone.
- 12,000 people per day across the globe could die from hunger linked to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 by the end of this year.
- 25-30 million jobs across the continent of Africa are immediately at risk.
- COVID-19 has further exposed the weaknesses of already fragile health systems, such as Mali, where there are only 3 ventilators for more than 20 million people, or Nigeria where there are only 14 hospital beds per 10,000 people.
- The pandemic is accelerating the global learning crisis. In low-income countries, 90% of 10-year-olds cannot read or understand a simple sentence, impacting their entire education trajectory.
So what’s next and what do we do now?
After the European Commission proposal, the Council discussion and leaders’ agreement, the deal is still not final – it needs to be endorsed by the European Parliament.
Just hours after the Council agreement, the European Parliament President convened an extraordinary plenary session, and approved a motion resolution asking for increases for future-oriented policy areas, including international development.
As the European Parliament prepares to negotiate with the Council before voting on the agreement, ONE is calling on Members of the European Parliament to push for increases to international development funding. Only by adopting an ambitious EU aid budget, the EU will demonstrate the strategic forward-looking perspective that we need, now more than ever, to deal with unforeseen challenges.
*All numbers cited are expressed in constant 2018 prices.