European Union balance of competences: development cooperation and humanitarian aid report

Working and discussion papers
March 2013

This publication outlines details of a submission by researchers from the Overseas Development Institute for European Union Balance of Competences Review on the Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid Report.

The UK Government has launched a review of the Balance of Competences of the European Union (EU). In the first ‘semester’, autumn 2012 – summer 2013, the review will cover development and foreign policy. DFID has published a call for evidence on development cooperation and humanitarian aid, with a closing date of 1 March 2013. The review is not intended to cover performance, except insofar as it is relevant to competence.

The DFID call for evidence notes that the EU is the largest aid donor, and that ‘through its policies on aid, trade, climate change and conflict the EU sets the global development agenda and provides a powerful platform from which to tackle global challenges and take collective action’.  It also notes that many of the wider topics will be taken up in other parts of the overall review and sets boundaries on the scope of consultation.

The key points in this submission are:

  • The focus of a discussion about competences should be on the period after 2020. This is because treaty obligations and financial commitments extend to then;
  • By 2020, the development agenda and HMG objectives are likely to have changed significantly, in ways that can be predicted, but without being definitive;
  • On this timescale, the correct question to ask about the EU is not ‘comparative advantage’ but ‘competitive advantage’;
  • The EU has some significant assets and advantages in development cooperation that suggest that the UK should continue to invest in the EU;
  • EU development cooperation has links to many other policy fields that invoke different parts of the Lisbon Treaty and different degrees of competence.  Thus, any change in competence to these other policy areas will have an impact on development cooperation;
  • The current system of ‘shared/parallel competence’ in development cooperation, by which there are 27 Member State aid actors working independently of the EU as a separate development/humanitarian aid actor, has advantages, but a process of reflection is needed to find ways to optimise these strengths and minimise some of the disadvantages.