The German Development Institute appealed to the EU to push for more efficiency in development programs. It suggests that similar, or even the same, schemes run side-by-side, are wasting funds that could be better used.
Local governments may be overwhelmed by EU states focusing on the same areas
The German Development Institute presented a study on Tuesday with guidelines for coordinating and streamlining the European Union's development programs. Although it did not explicitly say so, the paper, which was commissioned by the governments of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, implied that cooperation within the EU on development policy cooperation was still in its infancy.
It suggested that many nations merely pursued their own development aid programs driven by national interests and preferences. In some smaller development countries in Asia and Africa, for instance, all EU member countries run similar programs of their own in exactly the same sectors, such as water sanitation or health care.
German Development Institute chief Dirk Messner said he welcomed the countries' push to harmonize the bloc's development cooperation schemes with a view to saving costs and making assistance more efficient.
"What we have learned is that with all our projects in these countries, we are producing a lot of transaction costs," Messner said. "We're now trying to coordinate, to harmonize, to bring things together. To coordinate is very, very difficult with 27 actors in one country."
German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said at Tuesday's press conference that Nicaragua and Nigeria were classic examples of countries in which too many EU players being involved in the same thing. She hastened to add that the bloc's future development policy of streamlining activities would not entail cutbacks in overall aid.
Berlin to change strategies
Nicaragua suffers from too many EU players doing the same thing
"There must be no decrease in overall official development assistance for developing countries," Wieczorek-Zeul said. "For Africa, even more resources will be made available. In fact, Africa will get twice as much from the G8 industrialized nations by 2010 -- something that we pledged at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. So, once again, our efforts to streamline the EU's development policy are by no means aiming to reduce overall budgets."
Wieczorek-Zeul said Germany was going to focus more on such core development areas as water sanitation, environment protection and the fight against AIDS, while scaling down activities in other areas.
Portugal's ambassador to Germany, Jose Caetano da Costa Pereira, welcomed the EU-wide effort to harmonize development policies, but added that cross-border cooperation in a large number of projects has been common practice for Portugal for a long time now, albeit on a smaller scale.
"Portugal, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have been working in this area," he said. "This is not something that we are starting from zero. This is a dynamic process. Papers will come, more studies will come, hopefully, and more ideas will come to the debate and we will be able to progress in these areas step by step."
Wieczorek-Zeul said Germany would change its focus
The European Commission is hoping that an improved division of labor on the development front will increase the visibility and political influence of the bloc in the long run. But winning the battle against national vanities will be difficult, in Germany, too.
"This is hard stuff for parliamentarians, who like to work in many countries, and for the foreign office, which likes to be present in many countries at the same time," Messner said. "But from the point of view of aid effectiveness -- and things have to work -- this kind of concentration is very, very important."