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Working approach

The European approach


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Germany's development cooperation within the framework of the European Union

The European Union (EU) is the world's largest donor in international development cooperation, contributing a share of around 60.5 per cent. As the largest single market in the world it is also an important trading partner for many developing countries and has a major influence on world trade regimes. This combination of financial, economic and political influence makes the EU one of the most influential players in international development policy. 

Responsibility for development cooperation is shared between the European Community and its member states. Community policy in this field complements the policies of the individual member states.

Goals and principles

The Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February 2003, currently provides the legal basis for the development cooperation of the European Union. Article 177 and the following articles lay down the goals of European development policy. The Community aims to promote sustainable economic and social development, integrate the developing world into the global economy, and combat poverty. Democracy, the rule of law, and human rights are to be strengthened. This is why human rights clauses form part of many agreements with developing countries. This political dimension is what distinguishes EU development cooperation from that of many other international donors.

In December 2007 the EU heads of state and government signed the Treaty of Lisbon. It expressly makes poverty reduction the general objective of the EU. This is to guide all external activities of the EU and its member states. It also provides for the creation of a European External Action Service, with the aim of improving the uniformity and efficiency of the EU's actions in the field of external relations. The institutional organisation of development policy within the future system is still being discussed. Since the Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Lisbon in a referendum it is currently uncertain when the Treaty will come into force.

European Consensus on Development

In November 2005 the European Consensus on Development was adopted. Some fifty years after European development policy was first launched, this was the first comprehensive political declaration on the EU's development policy. It brings together the European Commission and the EU member states in the design of their respective development policies at political level, and was approved by the European Parliament.

The European Consensus on Development takes all previous agreements one step further. It extends these to incorporate the outcomes of the most recent international conferences on development (the UN Millennium Summit, Cairo, Johannesburg, Doha and Monterrey). The Consensus lays out the goals, principles and methods of European development cooperation, and identifies the priorities of the EU. In line with the principle of concentration, while maintaining flexibility at country level, nine new core areas have been specified:

  • Trade and regional integration

  • The environment and the sustainable management of natural resources

  • Infrastructure, communications and transport

  • Water and energy

  • Rural development, territorial planning, agriculture and food security

  • Governance, democracy, human rights and support for economic and institutional reforms

  • Conflict prevention and fragile states

  • Human development

  • Social cohesion and employment

The document also lays out cross-cutting issues including the promotion of human rights, gender equality, democracy, good governance, children's rights and indigenous peoples, environmental sustainability and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

German strategy and role

There are several ways in which Germany helps shape the development policy of the European Union. In a number of European bodies the German government actively pursues the following aims:

  • Gearing all activities to the overarching goal of reducing poverty

  • Making further efficiency gains and rendering assistance more effective

  • Improving consultation, coordination and the division of labour between the Commission and member states, and improving coherence with other EU policies

  • Promoting free and fair trade; this includes supporting developing countries within the scope of the Doha round of trade negotiations

  • Gearing development cooperation more to the imperatives of conflict prevention; European development policy should be seen as part of foreign and security policy, but should retain its own objectives.

The German government is also involved in every phase of implementation of EU development cooperation. All measures are prepared, implemented and monitored in consultation with member states and the pertinent Community institutions in Brussels.

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