Toby Vogel suggested in a blog post that a deal on the European Union’s budget for 2014-20 is probably very close (“Inside Herman Van Rompuy’s mind”, 25 January). If the final budget is like the proposal discussed by national leaders in November, the biggest casualty will be humanitarian and development aid. This would be terrible.
That proposal disproportionately targeted EU external spending, cutting €6.1 billion to development aid and more than a billion to humanitarian aid from the European Commission’s proposal, which the European Parliament said should be “the bare minimum”.
There is a general agreement that the EU budget should be for the benefit of EU citizens. But it should also provide the Union with the means to live up to its ambitions and commitments as a global player. EU aid is not only morally right; it is an economically sound investment.
The EU’s humanitarian and development aid is one of the most efficient, impactful and transparent in the world: this has been reiterated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, governments, independent think-tanks and civil-society organisations. It delivers significant, very real results. In the past three years, EU aid has stopped 50 million people in more than 50 countries from being hungry, has provided access to primary education for more than 9 million children and ensured 4 million more safe births. In just six years, it has given more than 31 million people access to safe drinking water.
Aid is also a smart and strategic investment. Aid flows increase trade and promote stability and security. Moreover, EU aid promotes growth within Europe itself. Recent research by the Overseas Development Institute and ONE showed that EU aid could yield a net gain in EU GDP of €11.5 billion by 2020, by boosting trade. Few investments can provide such a rapid and far-reaching impact for so little. EU aid costs less than the price of a cup of coffee per person per week.
So why attempt to balance the EU budget on the backs of the world’s poorest at the expense of the Union’s common interest and commitments?
It cannot be right to intend to cut EU aid by 12%, while the proposed cut to the overall budget is 7%.
EU leaders should show that the EU still has ambitions to remain a leader in the fight against poverty and humanitarian disasters. The European Commission’s proposal was balanced. It should be supported and the aid budget ring-fenced.
Action for Global Health