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MACKIE J. - The EU and International Development (25h)

The European Union is a major player in international development cooperation and as a bloc of countries it is still larger than any single donor.  However, as from 2020 it can no longer pretend to mobilise more than 55% of global ODA (official development assistance). Brexit means that together the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) 7 other largest donors (USA, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and now the UK) are responsible for more ODA than the EU group, whereas the EU as a whole will mobilise about 45%. This could well have an impact on the EU’s influence on the ‘rules of the game’ of international development cooperation.

The other major reason why 2020 is likely to be remembered as a year when EU international development cooperation changed a lot is the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the health crisis it has created, the pandemic has also engendered a major global recession that will set the cause of international development back many years. Equally, in a post-COVID world, it will be essential to re-think radically the way international development cooperation operates. The current business model of development cooperation is very dependent on frequent travel and the provision of external expertise and technical assistance. New quarantine rules being imposed around the world are already drastically disrupting such travel patterns and direct in-person cooperation. On the other hand, we have quickly learnt that a lot of discussion and interaction can take place effectively online.

The EU’s record on international cooperation is however solid and going forward it has a lot to build on so as to adapt effectively to these major changes. The sector is an important element of EU external relations and a core component of what is often referred to as the EU’s ‘soft power’. Yet the full realisation of this potential power has often been elusive as Member States have traditionally been reluctant to give up sovereignty in this sector and the integration process has been slow.

This optional course thus seeks to introduce students to the role of the European Union in international development cooperation, give them an appreciation of the contribution that the EU makes to this important area of global affairs and help them develop an understanding of how the internal organisation and dynamics of the sector have evolved to give European development cooperation its current status as an area of shared competence between the EU institutions and Member States. A central thread running through the course will be to explore whether or not further integration in this field of Union external action would improve performance and serve the best interests of developing countries.

From small beginnings as a side programme to ‘associate’ a group of overseas states and territories to the new Community of the six signatories of the Treaty of Rome, European development cooperation has evolved into an increasingly integrated assembly of bilateral and EU partnership programmes covering all regions of the developing world and with a particular focus on cooperation with Africa. With the growing scale and widening scope of this common effort has also come increased influence in the OECD DAC, the UN and other international development fora where the EU is now a major driver of policy debate and reform. Inside the EU, development cooperation has also had to find its place in the increasingly complex world of EU external action, working hand in hand not just with the common commercial policy, but, in the past decade, with other areas of concern such as humanitarian assistance, foreign and security policy or migration policy. The Lisbon Treaty opened up a new chapter with the European Commission having to share its responsibility for development cooperation with the new European External Action Service. With the agreement in 2015 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals another important threshold moment in the debate on international development cooperation occurred. Finally, as we enter the 2020s the EU, with its Africa, Caribbean and Pacific partners, is finalising, a successor to their 20-year-old Cotonou Partnership Agreement, and is signing off on a new multi-year budget that, for the first time, looks set to incorporate the former European Development Fund.  Last but not least the EU is losing one of its members with high ODA levels, the United Kingdom. The course will therefore also seek to introduce students to the main emerging strands of thinking in these wider global and European debates and the impact these are likely to have on European international cooperation.

Professor: James MACKIE

ECTS card 2020-2021