A recently obtained legal opinion of a UK-based law firm states that High Representative Catherine Ashton’s proposal for the set-up of the European External Action Service (EEAS) is inconsistent with the EU treaties’ provisions concerning development co-operation. A coalition of European development organisations, including Eurostep, CDSE, CONCORD and others, is urging EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament to reject the proposal and ask for a legal review.
The EU Treaties clearly state that “Union development cooperation policy shall have as its primary objective the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty” (Article 208, TFEU). NGOs are concerned that allowing the EEAS, under the command of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, to take over some of the Commission’s responsibility for development puts this primary objective in jeopardy.
“Lawyers confirm that the proposed set-up of the EEAS, which mixes intergovernmental policy areas like foreign and security policy and common policy areas of the European Community such as development policy contradicts the EU treaties,” said Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of NGO network CIDSE. “The EEAS supports intergovernmental policy and we are deeply concerned that the common EU development budget might be used to pursue national, economic and security interests. The HR’s proposal fails to recognise this imperative as there is no indication that safeguards will be put in place to ensure that development objectives will be protected. In so doing, the proposal goes against the spirit of the Treaties.” Simon Stocker, Director of Eurostep, commented: “The EU is the largest donor in the world. The politicisation of EU aid would undermine the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”
The revised proposal has been discussed and approved by EU foreign ministers in Luxemburg on Monday 26 April. However, the European Parliament, which has expressed concerns over the proposal, must give its approval before it can come into effect.