Before analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of European Union (EU) foreign policy in development, it is imperative to understand the conceptual link of EU’s foreign policy with development, and various evolutionary stages of EU’s foreign policy in development.

Since EU’s foreign policy has been associated with the developmental policy, it is, therefore, important to assess the impact of developmental policies internally and externally. Because both the levels provide it with the legitimacy to make decisions and contribute to global cooperation policies.

Broadly speaking, the development policy or stress on development came to prominence after the end of the Cold war. The early 1990s were the time, which not only saw the transition of the geopolitics from bipolarity to unipolarity, rather it was the time that exposed the vacuum in the development sector or the helplessness of global leaders to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda and Kosovo. In other words, the power vacuum and absence of a proper mechanism to avert crisis brought the attention of European leaders to formulate a policy on development in form of Millennium Declaration of 2000. In simple words, the critical analysis of EU’s foreign policy would involve the understanding of the developmental policy as well. Therefore, understanding the merits and demerits of development policy would directly inform understanding of foreign policy as well.

Evolutionary Stages of EU’s Foreign Policy in Development

An in-depth study of the European Union’s developments can be divided into following sub-stages for the conceptual clarity. In Carbone’s viewpoint, the time period between the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002 and the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris in 2005 can be marked as the major years in terms of the redefinition of the development goals by the leaders of European Commission. The formulation of Brussels consensus can be defined as the essence of European policy on development. It was bolstered by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (OECD, 2005) and the European Consensus on Development (EPCC, 2006).[1] Although the formulation of Brussels consensus did provide a European perspective on development, however, the coordination of the sub-facets continues to pose a challenge to EU. Therefore, addressing the obstructions in the way of success or achieving the desired developmental goals remains a matter of concern for scholars and policy analysts.

The European Union as a Player

In order to know whether European Union (EU) has been a player or payer when it comes to its foreign policy in development, it is pertinent to go through the merits and demerits of the development policy to provide an objective analysis.

For advocates, European Union (EU) is not merely a union of twenty-eight nations, rather it one of the significant donors of developing countries and a major trading partner. Its development assistance budget amounts to over 6 billion Euro annually, including 1 billion Euro for emergency and humanitarian aid[2].  Most of the development funding goes to Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states. The funding is usually provided by the member states. The relevance and impact made it a prominent actor, which is not only limited to Europe, but it plays a paramount role in global politics. The sheer size and success of EU impart it with resources and tools that facilitate the conduct of a stronger foreign policy.

According to the advocates of those who view the merits of EU’s development policy or consider EU as a foreign policy player, the unquestionable commitment of EU members to democracy, peace, rule of law and respect for human rights clearly reflect the resolve to promote and uphold the global norms and principles for all the global actors. Similarly, the overlooked role of women in building economies of the developing world has also been one of the areas of focus for the developmental leaders. To cite an example, global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame; ninety percent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education.[3] Despite the viewpoint of critics, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) associated with health have shown or resulted in positive success. For instance, the mortality rate for children under five years of age in 2012 was almost half that in 1990. Similarly, maternal mortality rate has decreased by 45 % between 1990 and 2013. The target on Malaria can also be fully met with a decline in malaria mortality rates of 42 % between 2010 and 2012. [4]

The European Union as a Payer

The critics or those who perceive the European Union as a payer of developmental policy mostly focuses on the demerits of the developmental policy. It is, therefore, important to take an overview of the arguments or critique. In Carbone’s viewpoint, the European Commission’s effort to “produce a statement on EU development policy (Brussels consensus) was to counter the Washington consensus“. [5] European Union (EU) as a humanitarian actor is another significant pillar of EU’s development policy, this function comes under the emblem of ECHO (the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office). It was created in 1991; the legal status was given in 1996 in form of an approval by European Commission.[6] The idea was to safeguard it from political influences by ensuring objectivity and unbiased approach. However, the recent extension of the role played by EU foreign minister in ECHO could raise questions regarding the autonomy and credibility of ECHO.

The scholars and analysts of Africa and other areas of the world in need of development are critical of the conditions associated with developmental projects. In this context, the mechanisms of providing aid or grants via bureaucratic means are considered as an obstacle or ineffective, as it becomes the cause of the delay. Moreover, the proliferation of non-state actors and terrorist organizations, particularly after the Paris attack has given rise to a debate on the prospects of the European project. In simple words, the new wave of fear is the precursor for deepening tensions along the lines of nationalism versus globalization. Furthermore, the management of refugee or migrant influx towards Europe is another obstacle that will continue to be a matter of concern for leaders. Interestingly, the migrant issue is directly intertwined with the humanitarian assistance and the nationalist tendencies of European states to safeguard territorial boundaries. For instance, United Kingdom is another case study that illustrates one of the challenges for the EU internally.

In addition, the repercussion of Euro-zone crisis is something that continues to be a matter of concern for some of the European actors. It represents the proliferation and demerits of an interconnected world in terms of multiplying the implications and impact of the crisis on not only the European but the other interconnected economies. In this context, the mismanagement of the crisis represents questions about the crisis management mechanisms, particularly for the twenty-eight member states.[7] According to the Reflection Group on the Future of the European Union report, aging populations, hostility to immigration, relatively low levels of investment in research and development, and a foreign policy that is feeble and non-coherent continue to increase the likelihood of the European Union becoming an irrelevant actor. In other words, the chosen response is deemed insufficient, particularly, with respect to the economic crisis.[8] The very factor is seen as the variable which could accentuate the divisions of European states.

Analysis and Conclusion

To sum up, the capacity of EU to achieve MDG goals for development is questioned by some of the critics. For them, it has the potential to be used for objectives or goals other than the development. The very argument is often cited by the analysts of developing countries as well. For Carbone, the achievement of European Commission in the sector of poverty reduction, particularity, the Sub-Saharan and south-East Asia is questionable. In his view, the aid to the middle-income states has been increased at the cost of funding to underdeveloped states.[9] For others, EU development aid to countries like Turkey and India is another point of objection. It means that the development and policies of EU should be more synchronized or coherent. Another argument of critics focuses on the association of development with the trade. The aid for India, for instance, is seen as a mean for EU to achieve the economic opportunities. However, it can also be deemed as a case of horizontal coherence, which links development with the trade to enhance relations between EU as an actor and India.

After carefully surveying the arguments of those who view EU as a payer (critics) in pursuit of a developmental and foreign policy, it would be implausible to completely undermine the merits of EU’s achievement as the global player in the developmental sector. That being said, one cannot neglect the critique of European Union’s (EU) role as a developmental actor, because it provides analysts and scholars with areas of improvement for the developmental policy. Keeping in view the fluidity of global environment in terms of increasing space for new kinds of actors and diffusion of power, it is pertinent to highlight the role of actors in attaining global progress and the influence of actors on EU and its relations with states in form of cooperation. Therefore, it would be plausible to suggest that the merits of EU as a development player is important to consider or acknowledge, however, the significance of demerits or the critic’s viewpoint needs to be explored further to understand the root causes of demerits and areas of improvements for the future of EU’s developmental policy.

[1]Veit Bachmann, "The EU as a geopolitical and development actor: views from East Africa," Online Journal of Political Geography and Geopolitics, January 2013, xx, https://espacepolitique.revues.org/2561?lang=en.

[2] Laz`r Com`nescu, "THE EUROPEAN UNION AS A GLOBAL PLAYER: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES," Romanian Journal of European Affairs 2, no. 2 (2002): xx, beta.ier.ro/.../RJEA_Vol2_No2_The_European_Union_as_a_Global_Pla...

[3]European Commission, The EU’s Contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, (Brussels: European Commission, 2015), https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/node/102618.

[4] European Commission, Annual Report 2014 on the European Union's Development and External Assistance Policies and Their Implementation in 2013 - European Commission, (Brussels: European Commission, 2014), https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/multimedia/publications/publications/annual-reports/2014_en.htm_en.

[5] Carbone , Maurizio, The European Union and International Development The Politics of Foreign Aid, (London: Routledge, 2007), http://www.dawsonera.com/depp/reader/protected/external/AbstractView/S9780203944684

[6]Shaping policy for development, "The EU as a Humanitarian Actor | Event | Overseas Development Institute (ODI)," Home | Overseas Development Institute (ODI), last modified October 8, 2003, http://www.odi.org/events/26-eu-as-humanitarian-actor.

[7] European Commission, The European Union in a changing global environment, (Brussels: European Commission, 2014), http://eeas.europa.eu/docs/.../eu-strategic-review_strategic_review_en.pdf.

[8]Zornitsa S. Yerburgh, "The European Union: Still a Global Player?," Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, last modified October 15, 2010, http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/publications/ethics_online/0050.html.

[9] Ravi Sodha, "Atlantic Community:Open Think Tank Article "Benefits and Uses of EU Development Aid"," Home - Atlantic Community, last modified March 1, 2012, http://www.atlantic-community.org/index.php/Open_Think_Tank_Article/Benefits_and_Uses_of_EU_Development_Aid.

Iqra is M. Phil in International Relations and her areas of interest are Politics of Middle East, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Theories of International Relations.

Top