The Draft Budget for 1996 was adopted by the EU Council of Ministers in July. It will go before the 18-22 September European Parliament plenary session.
The broad shift away from development assistance to Africa, Asia and Latin America, witnessed in earlier budgets, is again apparent as funds are directed increasingly to eastern and central European countries and the Mediterranean. The proposed Budget also advocates a shift away from food aid to humanitarian aid.
In response to these developments, a consortium of NGOs comprised of EURO-CIDSE, APRODEV, Caritas Europa, EURONAID, EUROSTEP, NGDO EU Liaison Committee and VOICE collaborated in producing a joint NGO position paper. This paper questions the decision to transfer 51MECU from Food Aid to Humanitarian Aid in next years draft budget (in practice this would mean responsibility for the funds would shift from DGVIII to ECHO).
It will be interesting to see what the European Parliament plenary session recommends, although not all parliamentary amendments will necessarily be adopted in the final budget.
The main points made by the consortium:
- Food aid should be implemented in a perspective of development and therefore kept under DGVIII.
- Without an accompanying revision of the ECHO mandate, a budgetary transfer is not justified.
- The concept of humanitarian food aid is causing confusion and lack of coordination between DGVIII and ECHO.
- A gap between food aid and emergency food aid has emerged due to the lack of clarity of what constitutes short-term and longer-term relief.
- Projects in the field of poverty alleviation fall into this in-between trap.
- The consortium perceives three strong arguments for keeping the bulk of refugee food aid within DGVIII:
- due to the often prolonged nature of refugee situations and the long term impact of food aid in the region;
- substantial quantities of refugee food aid needed at short notice would be better served out of wider budgets;
- existing regional stockpiles of DGVIII food aid enable it to react fast in rapidly developing crises.
- NGOs are concerned about this major transfer of funding away from development purposes.
The consortium also flags up that, as much of ECHO funding goes to eastern and central Europe, this will represent a geographical shift away from the south.