The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument is launched

I am shadow rapporteur for the future Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument. NDICI stands for Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument. With a total volume of almost EUR 80 billion, linked to the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027, the instrument will manage a large part of the EU's external funding. 

On Thursday, 18 March 2021, a joint vote by the Committee on Development and the Committee on Foreign Affairs paved the way for the financial instrument with a comfortable majority. I too voted in favour of its adoption, albeit with reservations, after lengthy consideration. The final step for adoption will be the vote in plenary in June or July, which will in all likelihood bring to an end a three-year negotiation process – the Commission's first draft of the regulation was already published on 14 June 2018.

Political agreement 

We already reached a political agreement in the last trialogue on 15 December 2020, when the relevant MEPs, the Council of the European Union, represented by the respective Council Presidency (at that time the German one) and the European Commission, represented by Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, met to negotiate a compromise between the different mandates. 

NDICI – Global Europe consists of three pillars. The largest is the geographical pillar, which amounts to €60 billion. It will be used to achieve long-term objectives, supporting the needs and priorities of third countries in line with the priorities of the instrument. The second, thematic pillar, consists of the human rights and democracy programme, and the programmes for civil society, for peace, stability and conflict prevention, and for global challenges. The third, "rapid response pillar", aims to ensure continuity of humanitarian programmes by building a bridge to long-term development efforts. Further funds can be distributed across the pillars through a flexibility cushion for unforeseen challenges. 

Long negotiations 

Following the European Commission's proposal to pool external action through the creation of this global fund for development cooperation and foreign policy, it was very important for Parliament to ensure both support for thematic priorities such as climate and gender and the allocation of funds for regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the EU's neighbourhood or the Caribbean and Pacific region. The negotiations have taken an unusually long time. After the adoption of an initial position by Parliament, on which the Greens abstained, a compromise was worked out in regular meetings. 

There was disagreement between the Council, Parliament and the Commission, particularly on governance of the instrument, specific budgetary allocations for regions and the controversial issue of migration. The priority for us was to ensure a parliamentary scrutiny function in the allocation and scrutiny of EU funds in order to strike a balance between the need for democratic, transparent funding and the objective of being able to support our partners quickly and flexibly. This has finally been achieved, and Parliament will in future have a say in cooperation and intervention and in setting priorities in terms of the geographical pillars. In addition, a geopolitical dialogue will take place twice a year between the Vice-President/High Representative, the other relevant Commissioners and the EP on the strategic orientations of the NDICI, including programming, the cushion, on migration and budget allocations. It remains to be seen how Parliament's scrutiny role will be shaped in practice, also with regard to the division of competences between the two competent committees. 

Parliament's achievements 

Other important achievements of Parliament in the negotiations are the establishment of a fixed percentage of 93% of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) instrument, reported in accordance with the relevant OECD Development Assistance Committee codes, and a number of other fixed percentages, most of which are in line with the EU's Treaty obligations. This means that, in line with the decision on the Multiannual Financial Framework, 30 % of this instrument will be allocated to climate change and a further 10 % will be progressively allocated to biodiversity and actions related to deforestation. 85 % of projects supported by this instrument will have gender as a criterion, with a further 5 % of projects as a primary objective. 20 % of the instrument will support human development, while 10 % will be allocated to projects related to migration. Individual projects may also support more than one objective. For Parliament, and for us Greens in particular, a higher allocation for climate and environment would have been desirable, but we were able to include a clause to ensure that measures cannot undermine the objectives of the Paris Agreement. We would also have liked more on other issues, such as the overall volume of the instrument and Parliament's participatory role. 

Development cooperation should serve to combat poverty, not to ward off migration 

Particularly critical, however, and the reason for my reservations about approving this financial instrument, is the reflection of the EU's migration policy objectives, which often run counter to development policy objectives. The sticking point here is, above all, migration conditionality, in other words, the linking of third countries' cooperation in the area of migration with allocations for other priorities. In Parliament's original opinion, it was possible to achieve a majority position against this conditionality; this was the basis for negotiation in the trialogues. 

By definition, development cooperation should not serve the strategic interests of donor countries, but the fight against poverty. Unfortunately, the Council, as the representative of the Member States, was prepared to make few concessions here, and, moreover, the European Parliament's negotiating position was torpedoed by the conservative forces in Parliament who advocate such conditionality. It is only thanks to the tireless efforts of a group of Greens, Social Democrats and Liberals that the greatest possible damage limitation has been achieved. In the final version, there is indeed a link between cooperation in the area of migration and development aid funds, but at least only within the 10% allocated to migration. We have also managed to define the term 'migration' as broadly as possible so that it is possible for projects to be aimed at addressing root causes of migration rather than migration management. 

The provisions on migration also mention a „flexible funding mechanism“ that can be used to support the objectives of EU migration policy, which means that migration-related trust funds can be established/expanded. Here I will endeavour to keep a close eye on the current trust funds, which are due to expire in December 2021, and ensure clear oversight and control by the EP. 

A difficult compromise 

This is not a compromise in my sense; I would have liked to see no conditionality and a lower allocation of funds for migration, measured against real needs. Nevertheless, I have chosen to vote in favour of the instrument in the end. The lack of political will to make the instrument progressive cannot be forced; it is only thanks to Parliament's efforts that it has been possible to achieve any significant improvements at all in comparison with the Commission's and the Council's proposals. To prevent the instrument from being adopted now and projects from getting under way as quickly as possible would send out the wrong signal. Especially at a time of a global pandemic, from which people in the global south in particular will continue to suffer for a long time to come.