Statement by Minister of State Kitt to the Joint Committee on European Affairs
I welcome this opportunity to discuss with the Committee Ireland's position on the cluster of Development Cooperation items which will come before the Council next week. I myself will be present at the Council for the Development discussion, which as you know, is now integrated into the General Affairs and External Relations Council on foot of a decision taken by the Seville European Council.
There are four development items on the Council's agenda: the Annual Report on the EC Development policy and the implementation of external assistance in 2002; the Commission Communication on governance and development; the creation of a Peace Facility in Africa; and the cotton sector and development in Africa.
The Annual Report is published by the Commission every year to inform the Council and the Parliament of the EC's activities in External Assistance and to account for the monies spent during the year. In 2002, €6.5 billion were committed and €5.2 billion were disbursed by the Commission on behalf of the European Community. This represents over ten percent of global aid and provides assistance to more than 160 countries and organisations worldwide.
Notable achievements in 2002 include the €275 million committed to Afghanistan, which will enable the new government to rebuild and improve the lives of its people, and the substantial additional resources pledged at the UN Summits in Johannesburg towards the achievement of the UN's Millennium Development Goals. The first generation of Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) has also been completed; these will serve as a valuable tool in the future and keep our focus firmly fixed on fighting poverty. The process of reforming the management of EC External Assistance, launched in 2000, has also begun to bear fruit. There has been a large devolution of management responsibilities away from Brussels and into the field, which in turn has led to quicker implementation and an improvement in the quality of programming. Financial management has also been improved, leading to faster disbursement and a reduction in the number of dormant commitments.
This is not to say that there is no room for improvement. The increased amounts of ODA available make the effective delivery of assistance a priority. The Annual Report has highlighted a number of areas that require further attention, including the need for increased flexibility and better integration at a local level. Further work will be needed to consolidate and complete the reform process in order to deliver high quality programmes of assistance that have a demonstrable impact on people's lives. The Draft Council Conclusions prepared for the General Affairs and External Relations Council make several recommendations to the Commission to strengthen their assessment procedures and increase their efforts towards the “Three Cs” (Coherence, Coordination, Complementarity). The Member States have invited the Commission to report on the progress of management reform by July 2004 and will continue to monitor the process closely. Overall, the Report is positive and has been welcomed by all Member States. The achievements reported are many, and we have every reason to be proud of our contribution to the Community's development programmes. I particularly welcome the renewed focus on the eradication of poverty and the list of progress indicators drawn from the Millennium Development Goals. These aims and objectives closely mirror those of our own development programme in DCI and I am happy to see them being given such priority among our European partners.
At the GAERC we will debate the Commission's Communication of 21 October on governance and development with a view to adopting Council conclusions on the subject. The Commission Communication on Governance and Development arises from the November 2000 Statement by the Council and the Commission on the European Community's Development Policy. That statement defines institutional capacity-building, particularly in the area of good governance and the rule of law, as one of the six focal areas for Community development efforts in pursuit of the goal of poverty eradication. The Communication groups together all of the Commission's operations in the area of governance with a view to moving towards a more dynamic and strategic approach to governance. 20% of programme resources allocated in the Country Strategy Papers are supportive of governance objectives. In addition, other programmes in the areas of human rights, mainstreaming and capacity-building all have governance elements.
The Communication defines three types of governance partnership between the EU and developing countries: effective partnerships, difficult partnerships and post-conflict partnerships. The challenge for the EU is to provide effective support for governance in each of these types of situation. The main instruments at the Community's disposal for the promotion of good governance are dialogue and capacity-building.
Ireland welcomes the draft conclusions before the Council which represent an attempt to give concrete follow-up to the Commission Communication. The conclusions ask the Commission to build on the Communication by preparing guidelines and a handbook intended to improve the effectiveness and impact of its governance programmes. They also recommend that the Commission strive for increased coherence, complementarity and coordination with Member States and other donors in its governance interventions. We particularly welcome the focus in the Communication on the challenges posed for the Union in promoting governance in the so-called difficult partnerships that the Union has with some developing countries. In such cases of difficult partnerships it is important to remember that populations should not suffer because of the actions of their governments. Activities such as humanitarian assistance and support to civil society should continue in such situations.
The proposal for an African Peace Support Operations Facility is a laudable attempt to tackle the endemic cycle of conflict in Africa which has hampered African development for decades. There can be no development without peace. The Peace Facility is intended to provide funding to support African peace-keeping operations mandated by the African Union and endorsed by the United Nations. It will not contribute directly to military expenditure such as arms, ammunitions or specific military equipment and salaries of troops. It will instead support non-military costs such as per diem, communications equipment, medical facilities, wear and tear of civilian equipment, transport and logistics. The initial €250 million for the Peace Facility will be taken from the long-term development envelope of the European Development Fund. It is intended that the Peace Facility will not be a one-off operation, but a more permanent mechanism. We would prefer if a separate budget line were created to fund it and would only wish to see the EDF availed of as a short-term expedient as we believe that the EDF should remain firmly focused on Overseas Development Assistance as traditionally understood.
Cotton Sector and Development
The question of the cotton sector and development in Africa was raised by four francophone West African cotton producing countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) at last September's WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancún. These countries requested the WTO to take measures to address the depression in world markets for cotton, on the assumption that this was caused largely by subsidies provided by developed countries, notably through: (i) elimination of domestic support and cotton export subsidies and (ii) the establishment of a transitional financial compensation mechanism.
The world market price for cotton depends on several factors: the level of world production and consumption, the level of border protection, the level of production-linked subsidies in major cotton producing countries, and the price of synthetic fibre. While all of the above factors play a role, the significant decline in cotton prices in recent years has clearly been demand driven. The share of cotton in world fibre consumption, in gradual decline since the 1960s, has dropped to just over 40% of total fibre consumption (down from 65% in the 1960s). The production of cotton in the EU is only a small fraction of total world cotton production (around 2%). EU domestic support for cotton does not, therefore, have any significant impact on the trend in world prices.
The Presidency has proposed draft Council Conclusions which are broadly acceptable to Ireland. The current draft of these Council Conclusions invites the Commission and COREPER to examine the issue of the cotton situation in Africa under three headings:
(i) continuation of work on the preparation of an adequate reply on cotton in the context of the Doha Development Agenda; (ii) consolidation of the competitiveness of the African cotton sector by taking into consideration the international challenges; and (iii) elaboration of a framework which makes it possible to respond to the effects of price volatility etc. using notably the arrangements of the Cotonou Agreement