The events in the EU’s southern neighbourhood overwrote the agenda of the informal meeting of development ministers held in Brussels on 22 February 2011. The ministers not only reviewed the future of development cooperation and the necessary development aspects of Europe’s role, but also the changes that might be required in the North African area.
The ministerial meeting in Brussels discussed as a key issue the ways to further the democratic transformation process more effectively in the North African countries. Since Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was visiting Egypt at the time of the meeting, she requested the Hungarian Presidency to lead the debate on the situation of Egypt and Tunisia.
“As a Central European who experienced the democratic transition, I feel like having kind of a time trip”, said Zsolt Németh, Minister of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Presidency at the press conference after the informal meeting in Brussels on 22 February 2011.The politician stressed that the religious fundamentalist motives behind the events in the Arab world should not be denied, but “the main trend of the movement is a freedom movement”.
The Minister of State called the retaliations in Libya unacceptable and advocated strong words and though attitude towards those who try to stop the democratic movement. Mr Németh recalled similar steps by the EU against Belarus.
At the press conference, Energy Commissioner Andis Piebalgs said that the events in the EU’s southern neighbourhood show that development policy is extremely important, since the demonstrations were caused by unemployment and a lack of political reforms.
The Commissioner suggested the current policy should be firmer and more proactive, since Tunisia and Egypt are in the first and third places respectively in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
Development policy in the service of democracy
The events in the EU’s southern neighbourhood clearly show a typical tendency in developing countries:due to a growing population and a relative improvement of health care, the ratio of young people is extremely high within the population but job opportunities are limited.The resulting social tension and dissatisfaction with governments led to an explosion in the area, which throws new light on the role and responsibility of the international donor community.
In their final communication published after their 21 February meeting the foreign ministers noted thatthe Southern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) calls for overall cooperation in every field to provide efficient assistance to partners who are committed to reforms.In light of the latest events, member states think that the structure and goals of subsidies must be revised.After her visit to Tunisia, High Representative Ashton announced that the European Union will provide a 17 million euro emergency aid for the country’s interim government.
Sahel, South Sudan: security and development in close relationship
Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world where abject poverty is compounded by a fast population growth, food shortage is an everyday issue and governments are transient. Society is riddled with internal conflicts, Islam radicalism poses a high risk, and security threats related to bootlegging and terrorism are extremely high.
The European Union is now finalizing a comprehensive strategy to address the region’s security and development challenges. In this quest, creating stable governance, resolving internal conflicts, encouraging closer cooperation between the regions and fighting against radicalism are of equal importance. The strategy also aims to enhance the region’s security capabilities, protect the rule of law and to support economic development.
EU development minister reviewed the situation in South Sudan, where over 98% of the local population voted in January 2011 to break away from the country’s northern region. The EU expressed hope for the two future countries to seek a lasting settlement for their relations.
Most ministers backed the Development Commissioner’s proposal for common European action, the coordination of development policies and for the required exchange of experience between member states. EU institutions will encourage a close cooperation between member states that wish to actively participate in South Sudan’s efforts to create and develop a new state.
Transitions in development policy
At the informal meeting member states discussed the European Commission’s green paper outlining the future trends of European development policy. The main idea is to coordinate the European Union’s support policies with the goals of sustainable growth by putting economic growth in the service of acceptance and reducing poverty.
Public consultations on the green paper were concluded in January 2011. While the evaluation process is still in progress, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told the informal meeting as a key conclusion from the approximately 230 comments made at the consultations that the EU must improve its international development cooperation in order to maintain it global role in a constantly changing international environment.
Experience in democratic transition
The EU takes the view that member states, especially those that joined the Union in 2004 and recently underwent a democratic transition, can offer their experience to help political and economic change, the establishment of democracy and building new governance. The ministers agreed that the experience of regime changing countries and their efforts to promote democracy could form the central plank of cooperation in the European Union’s reinvented development strategy.
Meer over ...