EU Member States politically endorsed the NDICI-Global Europe at the European Council in December 2020, which was then adopted by the European Parliament on the 9th of June 2021. The EU is now equipped with an instrument to deal with development, neighbourhood, and international cooperation for the next seven years. Global Europe – formerly known as NDICI (Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument), an acronym that was considered too technical according to several MEPs – introduces several novelties in the EU External Action landscape. First and foremost, it is a single instrument which brings together various external EU funding programmes for the first time. Global Europe also incorporates what was previously known as the European Fund for Development (EDF) into the Commission’s budget, allowing strengthened scrutiny by the European Parliament.
The final deal foresees an instrument worth €79.5 billion (in current prices) over the 2021-2027 period. Out of this sum, 93% is, in development jargon, DAC-able – which means it will go towards Official Development Assistance (ODA). This raises the standards for Global Europe – especially in terms of transparency and accountability. Being largely ODA means the instrument’s finances are mostly concessional and therefore less likely to fuel inequalities between — and within — EU partner countries.
The Global Europe regulation envisages references around development effectiveness, which needs to be included in the implementation of this instrument. The regulation contains some renewed EU commitments to reduce poverty worldwide, achieve the 0.7% ODA/GNI (though concrete actions around how to collectively achieve it are still missing), and implement the Paris Agreement. However, references to the EU’s interest seem much stronger than in past development cooperation instruments. Global Europe is meant to serve a “geopolitical European Commission”, borrowing President’s Von der Leyen’s words. Therefore, a balance between partner countries’ development ownership and the EU’s interests in the implementation of such an instrument will need to be closely monitored by civil society.
A very positive step forward is that Global Europe contains some very important aid spending targets. On top of the 0.7% ODA/GNI and the 0.2% ODA/GNI to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Global Europe’s most ambitious targets include: a minimum 20% towards human development, which includes spending on sectors such as health, education, social protection, food, and nutrition; 30% for climate objectives (in line with the Paris Agreement); while 85% of Global Europe’s projects and programmes must have gender equality as their main or significant objective. These goals are even more crucial in light of the pandemic recovery and its consequences globally, and they will help EU partner countries achieve the SDGs by 2030.
A less constructive result is about an indicative 10% migration spending allocation that Global Europe foresees. This approach comes with some risks, not because migration is not an important theme in development, but because of the way it has been framed by the EU: it aims to curb migration rather than reduce inequalities and poverty and promote human rights. A more positive way forward is possible, but the implementation of such spending must respect some standards, as several NGOs pointed out.
Global Europe aims to be a more flexible instrument: as such, there are some unallocated funds, about 12% of its budget, under the so called “flexibility cushion”. Flexibility can indeed provide much-needed latitude and rapid deployment of resources for unforeseen situations – COVID-19 pandemic being an important example in this regard. But flexibility also means more can be allocated to political priorities like migration to supplement or reinforce allocations made within Global Europe or which are too politically sensitive for the new EU instrument to include.
Additionally, the instrument emphasises the role of the private sector in the development domain. The European Fund for Sustainable Development, called EFSD+, and the External Action Guarantee are the most tangible evidence of such approach. These tools will support financing and investment operations in EU partner countries. EFSD+, in particular, brings some challenges, but the language around monitoring and accountability is stronger and more positive than initially proposed. It also contains some attempts to align EU blending to its aid programming, which is good for effectiveness.
Given the accelerated trend of shrinking space and violence against CSOs and human rights defenders, it is positive that the Global Europe definition of civil society is forward-looking and reflects CSOs multiple roles (from services deliverers to actors of positive, democratic change projects implementors, for instance). On top of that, Global Europe gives much more of a regulatory recognition to civil society role in monitoring reporting, and, programming its activities. Also, the instrument contains a programme for human rights and democracy support, which has an increased focus on the rule of law.
Finally, Global Europe strengthens a trend observed for some years: the “geographisation” of the EU’s ODA. This means that the majority of funding – 75% of Global Europe’s overall budget – will be implemented through geographic programmes. Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood will be the top regions to receive the funds, while aid for Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and the Pacific has been significantly reduced compared to the 2014-2020 EU budget.