Polish part: Citizens’ Corner debate on 'European Year for Development'

2015 marks a special year for development in the EU. For the first time the European Year is devoted to the EU’s external action and its role in the world. It is a year dedicated to raising awareness and engaging Europeans with the EU’s development cooperation.  The slogan of the EU Year for Development 2015 is “Our world, our dignity, our future.”

To explain how EU development aid works and demonstrate that it makes a real and lasting difference, Euranet Plus, Europe’s largest radio network, in partnership with Polskie Radio (Poland), held a live debate in Brussels with development experts and members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

The debate was jointly produced by Euranet Plus and Polskie Radio, which is Polish Euranet Plus member station. The debate was held in Polish and English and moderated by Polskie Radio’s journalists Magdalena Skajewska (in Polish) and Beata Płomecka (in English).

To make world a better place

Andris Gobinš, President of the European Movement, member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and “father” of the European Year for Development, explained that “development cooperation is a joint effort to make the world better.”

“We can jointly, as individuals, as member states and as the EU altogether make the world  better and it is about cooperation, not only donation,” said Gobinš. “It is not about how much we give, but how we live – this means responsible consuming, responsible decision-making, not giving with one hand and taking money out of the developing world with the other, which means a fair taxing system, so our companies that work in the development world  do not take the profits  only out, but they reinvest, there is some kind of motivation from ourselves to reinvest in those countries”, he added.

EU is world’s biggest development aid donor

Ryszard Czarnecki, Polish MEP for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and Vice-president of the European Parliament, pointed out that “the EU, together with its member states, donates 58 billion euros in a long-term perspective”. (audio in Polish)

“It should be stressed that different countries allocate different resources, with Sweden and Luxembourg being the most generous and spending 1 percent of their GDP on development aid, and Poland and Slovakia giving the least”.

Bogdan Brunon Wenta, Centre-right MEP from Poland and member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development (DEVE), recognized that “development policy is one of the most important elements of the EU policy”.  (audio in Polish)

“The biggest share of development aid reaches countries which are covered by the UN Millennium Development Goals, which are in turn strongly connected with the EU’s development objectives. And the main objective is to fight against poverty, to improve living conditions, access to water, healthcare and education”, he added.

“And even though these development aid funds look impressive, they are not enough taken into account that the EU helps almost 160 countries in the world,” Wenta emphasized.

Can we afford it?

But can we afford to help the poorest countries while some EU member states also need aid? The EU itself is also on the edge of a crisis. The best example is the last Euro Summit devoted to the Greek financial woes – Greece may need even as much as 86 billion euros in a bailout package.

In fact, Andrzej Grzyb, also Polish MEP for the Centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), believes that some countries should not receive EU aid.  (audio in Polish)

“EU’s development aid goes also to countries that should be excluded from this aid, such as India or China. It seems that with regard to the financial limitations within the EU, some countries should not receive this assistance.”

Grzyb pointed out that the EU uses also other instruments of aid than financial assistance, for example initiatives taken by the member states.  “But this development assistance can take different forms, for instance agreements on free trade called Economic Partnership Agreements [EPA],” Grzyb said.

English part of Citizens’ Corner debate on 'European Year for Development'

English part of Citizens’ Corner debate on ‘European Year for Development’

How do we help?

Liberal MEP Charles Goerens from Luxembourg, also member of the DEVE Committee on Development and shadow rapporteur  for the Report on Financing for Development, explained that the EU development policy is based on the principle of untied aid.

“That means that projects must be result oriented. There are assessments made by the OECD every year or every two years for the Commission as well as for the member states and there we see whether or not aid is tied or untied,” Goerens said.

“Furthermore, official development assistance is no longer channeled through projects or programmes, but comes directly to the treasury of the recipient country. And they have to define their own priorities together in dialogue with the parliament and civil society. And we are moving in this direction.”

However, Andris Gobinš disagreed that development aid should go in this direction.

“Personally, I am not for this type of budgetary help because we should help people and not governments. Governments sometimes have different type of interests. And if you refer to administration costs, unfortunately we see programmes and projects developed by the EU member states that use 20 to 30 percent of the money that should go the recipient people used for travelling. We should improve efficiency of these type of programmes.”

Goerens responded by saying “we should leave the colonial spirit behind us. You must give to recipient countries possibilities to define themselves their priorities. The EU’s aid is linked to several conditions. If money is spent the wrong way, then the EC or member states can stop this kind of aid.”

Gobinš retorted that “Libya was also a recipient country at a certain point. Another country that had government owned by the dictatorship. I believe that idea of helping civil societies is the best way.”

The importance of civil societies

Seamus Jeffreson, director of CONCORD, the European Confederation for Relief and Development, agreed with Goergens that “we support the plan of that country and we do not see to impose another plan”. He also stressed the importance of civil societies.

“Not only must we involve the general public in Europe in debates about development policy, which is what the European Year for Development is all about, but also in the partner countries. I think if these people are supposed to be benefiting from health programmes and not consulted about the health infrastructure, then it is not going to be successful,” Jeffreson said.

  • Author: Ewa Stankiewicz, Polskie Radio

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