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4.9 The EU and the economic dimension of

Copenhagen criteria, the conditions for joining the EU, is to have “a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressures and market forces” (European Commission, Economic and Financial Affairs), it is apparent that the EU does not want to promote itself too strongly in liberal economic terms. This is an important observation, because, as might have been expected, it is more common to find the liberal buzzwords in the Commission’s trade, development and aid sections. These sections make up a significant part of what the EU is doing both within the Union and beyond it. There might be a paradox here, because while the liberal economic discourse is not part of the EU’s identity and values, it is clearly a major part of its practice. This is, for example, how Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, expressed himself when he gave a speech at the Business Europe organization in Brussels in 2011

Europe’s export success rests very much on the openness and health of global markets. Our job is to keep those markets open and to pursue further openings. It is only through further liberalisation and active trade policy that we will bring down the barriers to trade growth. (De Gucht 2011:2)

It might be that it is sensitive for the EU too explicitly to emphasize that it is liberal because that might tarnish its identity as a social caring Union.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, where the EU has one type of language for its trade policy and another for its foreign and security policy, with clear discrepancies in between, there is, in reality, often greater convergence between the EU’s trade policy and its foreign and security policy. However, this is apparently not the case in the EU’s relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as its trade with Israel is, to a large extent, not related to EU peacebuilding in the conflict, and the EU has only minimal trade with the PA.

As Sophie Meunier and Kalypso Nicolaidis (2005:247) and others have noted, trade liberalization, both internally and externally, has always been the essence of European integration. At the same time, the EU prides itself for “trading on values” (EC, The EU’s place in the global market). The Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade has stated that the EU

has been working hard to conduct its business with heart and soul… This means that European trade policy is geared towards social solidarity, providing a social safety net to those who need it. It also seeks to reduce the environmental impact of trade through such measures as reducing emissions, developing environmentally friendly technologies, using renewable energy sources, and more. It also makes efforts to achieve sustainable development both for Europe and the rest of the world. (EC, The EU’s place in the global market)

4.9.2 Development aid and NGO financing

In its capacity as being both the largest trade bloc and the largest donor in the world, the EU believes that there are extensive links between trade and aid in world politics. EU officials, like its former External Trade Affairs Commissioner Peter Mandelson, often point out that international trade has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last decades, and that trade policy, when used well, can make a powerful contribution to development (EC, The EU’s place in the global market).

For a number of years, the EU has provided over 50 per cent of all development aid worldwide and the member states had originally agreed to increase the assistance to 0.56 per cent of its gross national income (a measurement roughly the same as GDP) by 2010 on the way to reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent by 2015 (EC, Development and Cooperation).

However, the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the subsequent debt problems in the Eurozone led several European countries to fall short of their earlier promises. 2010 therefore saw a 13 billion euro shortfall in the overall EU target to raise aid to 0.56 per cent of GNI (Youngs 2010:74). Only a handful of EU members now meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent and most are not even close (OECD ODA/GNI in 2010).

In the European Consensus on Development, a joint document produced by the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament in 2006, the values, goals, principles and commitments for the EU’s development policies were outlined. Three things stood out in particular:

reducing poverty, that development should be based on Europe’s democratic values and that developing countries are mainly responsible for their own development (Council of the European Union, the EC and the EP 2006, EC, Development and Cooperation). The ways in which the EU gives development aid are complicated for a number of reasons, ranging from the

plurality of sources where the aid comes from, to issues of oversight, transparency, accountability and efficiency. First, aid from the EU goes from the Commission to a number of geographic and thematic instruments, for example the European Neighbourhood & Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which is geographically connected, or to EIDHR, which is thematically connected with the promotion of democracy and human rights. EU development aid covers a broad span of recipients, from governments and other institutions within a state, to NGOs and even single individuals (ENPI, Who is eligible for funding?, EIDHR, Who is eligible for funding?) Besides development aid, the EU also provides humanitarian aid through the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

4.9.3 Good governance

Besides peace, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the four terms that one finds in virtually all EU documents about its foreign and security policy, good governance is a term which the EU appears to use increasingly in its foreign and security policy. To an even greater degree than with the other buzzwords, it almost always does so without attaching any clear meaning to it, which is frustrating as it is hard to understand what is really meant by its use of the term. But looking beyond the EU’s foreign and security policy domain, to development and aid policy, it becomes easier to find a clearer EU view of what constitutes good governance. For example, in the Cotonou Agreement, which is a partnership agreement signed in 2000 between the EU and 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), good governance is defined as

the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development. It entails clear decision-making procedures at the level of public authorities, transparent and accountable institutions, the primacy of law in the management and distribution of resources and capacity building for elaborating and implementing measures aiming in particular at preventing and combating corruption. (The Cotonou Agreement, art 9:3)

At about the same time, in 2001, the Commission published a white paper on European governance, in which it stated that five principles underpin good governance: openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and

coherence. According to the Commission, each of them is important in establishing more democratic governance and, taken together, they underpin democracy and the rule of law (European Commission 2001:10).

It is no coincidence that the Cotonou Agreement stated that good governance underpins the EU-ACP partnership (The Cotonou Agreement, Art. 9:3). As the world’s largest trade bloc and donor, good governance is of critical importance for the EU in its dealings with the 79 ACP countries, many of which are among the poorest and most corrupt in the world.