The combined development budgets of the European Commission and EU Member States is enough to make Europe the single largest donor of overseas development aid in the world. Europe contributes over $50 billion per year, accounting for over half of all development aid internationally. However, a recent report by the UK Parliament argues that: “Too much EU development aid is going to middle income countries, like Turkey and Serbia, and not enough is reaching the world’s poorest people and poorest countries.” Is it time to re-think which countries get development aid from the EU?

We spoke to Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, and asked him about this and other topics. We began with a comment sent in to us by Joerg, who thinks that, whilst Europe does have a “historic responsibility” to contribute overseas development aid, “we could discuss which countries really need our help (e. g. I think China does really not need aid anymore).

Commissioner Piebalgs agreed with him to a point, but argued that this shouldn’t be an excuse to shirk Europe’s responsibilities to the world’s poorest people:

Next, we had a comment sent in from Christos who argues that Western countries might be doing more harm than good in Africa and other parts of the developing world: “It is not the droughts that are ravaging Africa, it is institutions like the IMF that have burdened them with heavy loans (just like Greece now) and do not allow them to prosper… the best thing Europe and the West could do is step out, stop or scrap the IMF institution, delete all debts, and allow Africa to blossom on its own.

Finally, we had a video comment sent in from Peter, who was sceptical of the idea of “green growth” or “sustainable development” for the developing world. Peter argued that “nothing is truly sustainable” on a planet with finite resources. How would Commissioner Piebalgs (who was previously EU Commissioner for Energy) respond?

What do YOU think? As China, India and other countries lift billions of people out of poverty, is it time to focus EU development aid only on the very poorest countries? Or is it important to remember that, even with Europe going through difficult times, it is comparitively a small amount of money being spent on development aid. Does aid do more harm than good, and should we instead focus on reducing the developing world’s outstanding debt burden and opening up our markets for their trade, to let them lift themselves out of poverty? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – stevecadman

18 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Zoétán Jenei

    ipar fejleszts a fejld orszgokban oda elssorban kzi munka ignyes ipari tevkenysgre kellene beruhzni illetve olyan termkek ellitsra amire nagy kerslet van az adot orszgokban

  2. avatar
    Cristian Dinescu

    Those debts should be considered aid … creditors could gain more from tax reductions at home than they will ever get from those poor nations.

  3. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    No, this shld be voluntary. Entirely.

    Like here. Finland cannot solve the world’s probs.Sorry :)
    We can help but..

  4. avatar
    Eli Dirkx

    I second the “voluntary” comment.
    The governments are wasting too much money as it is.

  5. avatar
    catherine benning

    Can you please explain why our European leaders feel they should be sending aid to countries outside Europe when those in Europe are already starving? Take Greece for example, don’t you feel they above all people need our largesse? And if not, why not?

    What is it about these Western States that makes them feel the European taxpayer should be funding other countries, who in the main abuse the funds and never allow it to reach their poor, when our own people have just as much sheer poverty as those they tell us need our money.

    This is a money laundering escapade in the biggest sense and should be stopped at once until our own people are taken care of with our taxpayers’ money.

    Europeans need to get up off their knees and demand change.

  6. avatar
    Antonio Jose Pecurto Pecurto

    Eu Tambm estou de acordo a Europa no pode fazer de Blindado voluntria a Europa tem ajudar esses paises com politicas de crescimento e ajudar acabar com a corrupo

  7. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Opening our markets? When we already are charging 1%, 2% of custom tariffs? When this policy are putting our young people out of job? 50% in Spain, 38% in Portugal, average in Europe on 30% of unemployed youths. You are joking, no?

  8. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    There are numerous issues with aid just as there are with development.

    This year the UK bilaterally insisted on giving aid to India which India publicly stated it did not need or want.

    Aid is not just about aid. It is about national (or in the EU’s case supra-national) projection and having an influence over the recipient to some degree.

    It is a political tool in the political tool box. It can be used similarly to sanctions when aid is “withdrawn” to show “displeasure” but allow otherwise normal relations to continue. It can be used to “assist” a nations businesses in having an easier path to entry in the recipient nation than it may otherwise have.

    Occasionally it can be used to actually provide aid to those in dire need of it too, if it has not been siphoned off to a large extend by corrupt officials in recipient nations.

    To think of “aid” as a purely humanitarian issue with no diplomatic and political under current is a particularly naive view to have unfortunately.

    When looking at the recipients of aid, all to often, we should be looking at what geopolitical benefits there are for the donors, the donors national interests and the donors domestic businesses.

    As with official statistics, international aid also requires us to get behind the numbers to see the real motivators for who gets what. It is even more true of an opaque and unaccountable institution like the EU where personal responsibility seems to have been deliberately designed out of the system.

  9. avatar

    please stop giving money to leaders in Africa. give it to the people.

  10. avatar
    Ieva Kalniņa

    should all aid not be renamed into cooperation? “Aid” is such a humiliating word… And as for cooperation, we need it with everybody – and on equal terms.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Can you please explain why we, the tax payers of Europe, should be paying for ‘cooperation’ when we have so many of our own people are in poverty and starvation?

      That is a ridiculous concept. It is blackmail and it is offered as bait in order to impose our government wishes on countries that should be deciding for themselves what they should be doing and what they want and need. Our way of life is not suitable for all cultures. This creates a standard of corruption we cannot control.

      Only foolish minds believe you get what you want via coercion.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Can you please explain why we, the tax payers of Europe, should be paying for ‘cooperation’ when we have so many of our own people are in poverty and starvation?

      That is a ridiculous concept. It is blackmail and it is offered as bait in order to impose our government wishes on countries that should be deciding for themselves what they should be doing and what they want and need. Our way of life is not suitable for all cultures. This creates a standard of corruption we cannot control.

      Only foolish minds believe you get what you want via coercion.

      The best example is to be straight.

  11. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Thank you Mr Piebalgs for answering my point, but unfortunately I will continue to be sceptical for two main reasons.

    A) First of all I grew up during the ’80s and since then I was viewing continuous efforts to offer aid to Africa. Since the ’80s , that is 30 years Mr Piebalgs, THREE whole DECADES, and the effort started long before that. All those decades I was viewing efforts like LIVE AID, and LIVE 8, many NGOs like UNICEF, CONCERN, and many many more offering aid, aid aid for the poor children of Africa. Three decades later, we still need millions of euros to support Africa, we still haven’t seen any real progress with very few exceptions. Oil and mineral rich nations still suffer from poverty, while most African nations do not even come anywhere near the new EU states in the spheres of development, economic growth and political stability. It took the central and eastern European states just over a decade to be able to join their western brother nations, from the early ’90s to the early ’00s when they joined the EU, NATO and other institutions.

    I was only 4 during the ’80s when I was buying UNICEF notepads and pencils to support the poor kids in Africa, and I am 34 years old now, and you are still telling me that Africa and its nations, with so much wealth because of their natural resources they will need more aid and help. If when I become 64 and I am still alive, will I have to listen those words again, to give more aid to Africa? Don’t you think that something is wrong in all this, in the way we are dealing with the poverty in Africa and other regions?

    B) As concerned the case of Greece, I will remind you the Europe does not “help” Greece, it invests in it. It would help it, if it was giving the country INTEREST FREE loans, but that is not the case. True partners would give loans to a partner without any extra intrests on them. Europe is pilling more debt on Greece, by imposing high interest rates, higher of those offered by Russia and China to us, to repay our debts. They will get their money back, plus the interest in other words they will make profit out of the misery of the Greek people. Loans with such high interest are very hard to be repaid, but I thinl that is the point they want to achieve. Never mind the fact that some EU countries are able to get interest free loans from the markets, while others do not.. No names here…

    Europe is acting only to secure their bank shares in Greece, their interests. European bankers were speculating and investing in Greece all those decades, pouring huge amounts of cheap money into the country’s market in order to indebt Greece. The Greek people went mad and started overspending as it was expected, like any nation that went through so much harshness and poverty in their recent history of the past few decades would do.

    Now the European bankers and marketeers are only concerned for their money, not the Greek people. They have the nerve to demand our islands and even our historic landmarks like the Parthenon in order to offer us their “help”… Do you call that “help”..?? Are you giving the same kind of “help” to Africa too? No wonder the continent is in bits.

    So in order for me to agree with you, I would like to see industries being set up in Africa, more fare trade established, and the African nations to be able to exploit their natural resources and provide them to the global markets for the benefit of their people first. Not have the multinationals robbing them off their natural recourses and taking them for scraps..Invest not with aid and loans, but with factories and jobs in Africa, universities hospitals and so on…. But who would do that now, eh?

    05/01/2016 Erik Solheim, former Norwegian Minister of International Development (2005-2012) and current Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, has responded to this comment.

    05/01/2016 Tamira Gunzburg, Brussels Director of ONE, has responded to this comment.

  12. avatar

    Its not bad to have Aid pumped into Africa but the Fact
    1. Remains, this has always been said’ that the African problems can anly and only be solved by the Africans’ but the donnar countries have always paid a deaf ear to it. how is this posible, its only possible if the beauracratic Africa leaders are by Past and direct relation is created with the local masses then the donnars can get to know how best they can help Africans to help themselves because the when large sums of funds are sent in to help, either the governments will use that for politics or currupt leaders embezzle the funds.

    • avatar

      If aid only ends up stolen by the corrupt bureaucrats, terrorists and warlords then Europe should stop it, because after all it is no different from encouraging and enriching such people to their nefarious ends while being a huge drain in Europe’s coffers. My sympathies for the common man in Africa but this a necessary evil they themselves must face and realize change has to come from within.

  13. avatar
    andy brookes

    If you take the above Anonymous comment , I agree if money is going into the back pocket of some official its obviously wasted. I have spent quite a bit of time in Ghana since 2005 and corruption is endemic.

    Never the less there are people who could do with a bit of help and direction. Ghanaians are doing things for themselves. I liked the signboard at the Ashanti palace which said “education is the key to development”; I would just add “yes and integrity /honesty will take you down the right path”.

    There are quite a few well meaning English and europeans about in Ghana, involved with all sorts of projects. What the Ghana Government should do is have a look at all NGO’s and at least show some interest.

    I have an NGO in Ghana if some of this European money cam e my way , at least I could show you my account books and what I did with it

  14. avatar
    A Nonny Mouse

    I have a school debate about the EU, and the best argument wins. Two questions need to be answered in this article, I think.

    How does the EU determine which countries receive aid, and which of them don’t?
    – Some countries have had these problems already and solved them themselves without any aid. Sometimes it’s better to use simpler “tried and true” methods than to go all out formulating expensive, impossible to carry out bills and laws.
    How are some countries deemed more important than others?
    – I mean seriously, no one cared about Ukraine until the riots springed up, and now its plastered all over the news.

  15. avatar
    Akmal Khan

    This discussion developed my interest to write and share what I have observed. The mantra Aid should be replaced rather than cooperation and support building, because this term promote and increase sense of inferiority and dependance. If the donor countries focus on capacity building and human resources, which is the dire need of developing countries of the world, will lift out them from the burden of problems they face.
    Sending and spending Aid directly through Power holders (bureaucrats, rulers and politicians) experienced quite often to mass corruption and bedazzlement of Aid. The donor countries don t account the recipients and its employees in a true sense which creates doubts and Skeptic. In case of Africa, War lords and militants are blessed with financial Aid. Let them free and stop supporting different warring groups/regimes to harm stability and harmony of the region, will overcome the problem they face.

    Once again, direct Aid should discourage through the hand hands of power holders, and participatory method should adopt for the result oriented objectives.

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