EU Aid Must Not Be A Casualty of Budget War

Lord McConnell


This week saw an interesting and lively debate in the House of Lords on recent developments in the European Union. While Members’ contributions were varied and focused on a range EU issues, I chose to highlight the impact of the Union as a driving force for poverty reduction and peace in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

All too often, debates on the EU have centred on the actual material or parochial political benefits of being at the tables of the European Council. Yet such a narrow understanding of the spirit of the Union risks missing the crux of the debate completely. Simply put, the EU question boils down to whether we want to live in isolation as the United Kingdom, or whether we want to live as part of a group of nations that work together – not only in their internal interests but externally too.

Of course, the EU is far from perfect. From an excessive bureaucracy, through the imperfect Lisbon Treaty, to the current Euro crisis, it is clear that there exists a dire need for reform within the EU. But the Union also has its benefits. The single market has propelled trade and has been balanced by many social benefits; the EU has had a global impact on the environment, trade and development; and the EU has played a pivotal role in advancing peace across the continent in the aftermath of World War II and through enlargement to the East. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU earlier this year was a much-needed reminder of just how far we have come. In the areas of Justice and Home Affairs, and the Economy, as well as in the area of External Relations, there is a strong case for pooled sovereignty in today’s world. And that sometimes has to be backed up by laws passed at the European level. The UK Government and others should show more leadership in making that case to the people of Britain, not shy away from it.

The current battle over the EU Budget risks consequences for the Official Development Assistance of EU states. But, whoever is responsible for the current financial crisis and EU overspends, it is not those who live in the poorest parts of Africa, Latin America or Asia, and who currently benefit from the EU aid budget. The UK has made a proposal to freeze the budget, and I sympathise with that view. But if cuts are made proportionately across all budgets, there will of course be an impact on the aid expenditure as well. The President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy recently made an outrageous proposal, suggesting that cuts to the EU aid budget should be disproportionately high in comparison with cuts to other departments, in order to avoid cuts to the subsidies and the waste that goes on in the departments for which he and President Barroso are responsible.

Not only is this morally wrong, it is also illogical. In the UK, every penny that we take out of the EU aid budget will simply have to be re-routed to our own DfID budget. We have committed to the 0.7% international target irrespective of what agencies, departments and organisations such funds are channelled through. Other countries will have to follow suit and do the same thing with their national budgets since the EU spend contributes to national aid and development assistance targets. The only countries to benefit will be those that want to avoid international obligations. And poor people will pay with their lives.

A review of UK aid signals that engaging with the EU on development matters works. DfID and the former Secretary of State, Mr Mitchell, undertook a Multilateral Aid Review in 2011 which, in an objective evaluation that saw funding withdrawn from a number of multilateral organisations, showed that the European Development Fund’s performance was strong in meeting the UK’s aid objectives. In having organisational strengths to use that money effectively, the Fund was considered to be strong, and it was more likely than most to change and reform. It would be a terrible signal if in a year when the G8 comes back to the UK we were leading on a budget initiative that slashes the EU aid budget, depriving the world’s poorest of essential humanitarian assistance and the development investment that helps create growth.

I urge our Government to take a strong stand. Political leadership is not only about tactics. It is not only about trying to get the better of the other parties in relation to a referendum. It must also be about vision: setting out a case for our role in the world and in Europe, working out how the two go together, and understanding how we can then make the best use of them. Now is the time for the Government and the Opposition to be bucking the popular trend of euroscepticism, and leading Britain to a new level of engagement fit for the 21st century.


5 comments for “EU Aid Must Not Be A Casualty of Budget War

  1. Lord Blagger
    19/12/2012 at 12:54 pm

    Nothing like spending other people’s pension money is there?

    If an median wage earner had been allowed to invest their NI, they would have had a fund of 550,000 pounds.

    Instead you give them a state pension, that if you bought it from a profit making insurer would cost 130,000 pounds.

    420,000 pounds ripped off from a 26K a year worker for your little schemes.

    Even that 130K won’t be paid, because you’ve got 4,600,000 million of pension debts hidden off the books.

    You can’t pay that, and yet you carry on spending other people’s money making them poorer and poorer, in a standard long con. It’s a Ponzi fraud, and you are part of the problem by spending the receipts of that fraud.

    See section 2 of the Fraud act.

    You’ve redistributed poor people’s retirement money, and that’s going to leave them destitute.

  2. MilesJSD
    21/12/2012 at 7:27 pm

    “Our role in the world and in Europe”
    needs to be both sustainworthy and genericly-emulable.

    One-human-being NEEDS (only) one-living;

    not two three, ten, 20, 50, 100, and (in the case of some individual-capitalists and “stars”) 1000 human-livings – per week !

    It is a fact that the more human-livings one person consumes from the Common Purse, and thereby from the Common Earth Lifesupports Environment,
    the more deluded-in-mind
    and un-sustainworthy in body
    s/he becomes;

    especially since s/he could never repay all those accumulated multiple-livings and overconsumed and destroyed lifesupportive-resources.

  3. Rhodri Mawr
    22/12/2012 at 9:26 am

    In the areas of Justice and Home Affairs, and the Economy, as well as in the area of External Relations, there is a strong case for pooled sovereignty in today’s world

    The principal one. There are many organizations which are attempting to form similar “pooled sovereignty”. It is not easy for the ECO,(Economic Cooperation Organization) for example, since they are not sponsored in any way, that the ECSC/EEC was in the early days.

    The current US president is well aware of such a need,especially for the ECO, but then he is president of a similar such group of states with “pooled soverignty”, is he not?

    The small mindedness of idiot organisations like UKIP, and the lesser pronouncements of the UK government, with regard to its parent body ,the EU, is phenomenal compared with the enlightenment of that second generation immigrant to the USA, Obama.

    The Arab League also is invariably and seriously undermined by the chronic problems
    of Israel/Palestine, and yet by means of “pooled sovereignty”, the recent problems of the so called “Arab spring”, might well have been avoided. The centre of Gravity of the Arab world, Cairo, may not have changed, but it certainly now has the glittering satellite of Dubai.

    Damascus is the new designated city of the Arab parliament, since 2001, not yet built.

    They will have to sort that out then.

    The Unity of the South American states and culture is also surprising; how far their “pooling of sovereignty” has progressed is arguable; the huge future promise of a peaceable sub-continent is not, nor the 30% illiteracy rate in Paraguay.

  4. MilesJSD
    31/12/2012 at 8:39 pm

    The EU being the largest economy in the World
    (approx annual $US, EU 15.8 trillion
    USA’s 15.1 trillion and
    China’s 11.5 trillion
    (the small economies being measurable in mere single-figure billions, one at less than 1 billion GDP per annum):

    now, since China recently avowed to support the Euro, in preference to the $US,
    it would look as if “the bigger, the more likely to ‘survive'”;
    but the history of crashed civilisations not just of economies, and recently of the “sub-prime” un-factored disaster, and the current US “fiscal-cliff” threatening-sequel,
    and of course of the even weaker economies of Greece, Spain, and Britain,
    all tell us that bigness brings no exemption from nationally-economic ‘bankruptcy’.
    Every level of Economics, Banking, Governance, and Human-Development
    has its necessary minimum level of Literacy, to be achieved, held and constantly improved by its chiefs, directors, governors, consultants, scrutineers, auditors, and devils-advocates, including by Media, NGO and Community heads and experts.

    Rhodri’s “the 30% illiteracy rate in Paraguay” surely refers to the ‘bottom’ of those Lifeplace and Workplace ‘ladders’ and neighbourhoods where,
    if you are in such a country as the UK,
    such 30% lower classes (except perhaps the very lowest ‘underclass’) could all be making their individual selves literate through use of a multimedia-computer;
    but the literacy level in such countries as Paraguay (a) does not bring that 30% up to being able to use such a learning-computer;
    (b) it might well appear that the top-literate governors and economic-owners of the peoples-in-question are themselves “illiterate”, in that they are “not fit enough for Purpose” and are failing to both educate and train their 30% ‘lowest-literates’ to become self-regulating adult-learners.
    The term we have to get used is “Sustainworthiness”
    with all its cool-warm, and sobering, factors, methodologies and models;
    because as yet there is neither sight nor sign of any long-term morally & materially sustainworthy nation, ‘union’ or ‘pooled-sovereignty’ of states;
    not anywhere on the face of this Earth nor,
    as far as can be seen by such as this submissor,
    in any Scrutiny or Planning-Room, or on any ‘Drawing-Board’.
    It is not yet made visible even by any ‘creative-text’,
    such as “Utopia”, “Shangri-la”; “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Animal Farm”, “1984”, and suchlike.
    We are all too “busy” living beyond both our own civilised means and the Natural means of the Living-Earth – and possibly of ‘God’ too;
    we are so easily ‘addicted’ to ‘hedonism’, ‘instant-pleasure & gratification’, ‘I am not my neighbour’s keeper’
    as well as cowed by ‘you must not help other persons in trouble, you must call the Authorities’ (which latter was a failed-continental-philosophy borrowed by PM Margaret Thatcher and delivered to The People as
    (“)We don’t need Society any more,
    we have you the Perfect Liberated Individual and Democratic citizenry
    and us the now near-perfect State,
    with whom you can deal directly;
    we do not need any Society(“)
    Both financial & material, and moral & educational, AID
    has majorly to be re-paradigmed and directed adequately into both Individual and Collective human Development, in a real-world and real-life urgency, with Human-Development (without-instruments and apparatus) at least equal to the funding of Scientific and Technological Research and Development.

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