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Open Letter: Defending the EU development and humanitarian aid budget for 2014-2020

31 January 2013
An open letter from Plan Europe to EU Heads of State or Government, calling on them to defend the European Commission's proposal for development and humanitarian aid budget in the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework.


Chancellor Angela Merkel, President François Hollande, President Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Prime Minister Mario Monti, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Taoiseach Enda Kenny

cc: President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz

RE: Defending the EU development and humanitarian aid budget for 2014-2020

As representatives of Plan Europe, and on behalf of the 84 million children and 90,000 communities we work with in 51 developing countries worldwide, we, the undersigned, are writing to ask you to reject the disproportionate cuts to development and humanitarian aid proposed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. We urge you to stand up and protect the EU aid budget at the levels proposed by the European Commission.

The European Union stands at an important junction. The decisions you make at the European Council on 7-8 February on the Union’s long term budget for 2014-2020 will determine the path you choose to take the EU down, both at home and in our relations with the wider world.

There is much resting on these negotiations, with implications for European citizens and those beyond our borders. The EU has an important role to play in supporting international development, and you must take this responsibility seriously.

Stand up for EU aid

We call on you to stand up for EU aid. Even in times of austerity, we ask you to refuse to make budget savings at the expense of the world’s poor; as European Commission President José Manuel Barroso rightly stated, cutting a few thousandths of a percent from the EU aid budget has life or death consequences for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The proportion of EU spending set aside for lifesaving and life changing interventions – from providing food assistance to those suffering from devastating drought to securing an education for millions of children who would otherwise miss out – represents a fraction of the overall spending, at only 5.47%* of the European Commission’s proposal. Yet this proposal has been disproportionately targeted by the cuts proposed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Cutting 12% from EU aid cannot be justified, and goes against our values as a Union.

These cuts also go against popular public opinion. European citizens have demonstrated their support for EU development and humanitarian aid time and again, despite the crisis. As EU member states, you too have continued to reaffirm your commitment to meeting the collective target of 0.7% by 2015, yet so far only four member states (Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) have reached this target. The UK’s commitment to the 0.7% target nationally is to be applauded, and should be mirrored with the same commitment at EU level. The European Commission’s proposal is a realistic attempt to put Europe back on track towards its 0.7% pledge.

EU aid works

We know that when this aid is used wisely, it has a catalytic effect in helping people pull themselves out of poverty. It is critical in meeting the commitments to the millennium development goals and to poverty eradication which, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, is the heart of the EU’s external action.

This is particularly important when it comes to children, who represent half the population of developing countries. Child poverty is on the rise worldwide, yet we know that investing in children, particularly girls, is one of the most effective uses of EU money. It is key to fostering long-term, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Research shows, for example, that as many as 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-incomes countries left school simply with basic reading skills. That is equivalent to a 12% cut in global poverty. In five years, EU aid helped enroll more than nine million new pupils in primary education; vaccinate more than five million children against measles; and connect over 31 million people to drinking water and nine million to sanitation facilities.

The European Commission’s EU aid proposal would cost only €0.32 per citizen per week over the period of the Multiannual Financial Framework, and recent research by the Overseas Development Institute shows that the €51 billion earmarked for the Development Cooperation Instrument and European Development Fund could yield a net gain in EU gross domestic product of €11.5 billion by 2020.

The EU is rightly proud of what it has achieved to date, but the job is far from over. It must demonstrate the global leadership it so often professes. The EU will not be able to play the leading role it wants to play in the world without making a strong commitment to our partners in developing countries.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office
Dirk Van Maele, National Director Plan Belgium
Ossi Heinanen, National Director Plan Finland
Alain Caudrelier-Bénac, National Director Plan France
Maike Röttger, National Director Plan Germany
Tiziana Fattori, National Director Plan Italy
David Dalton, CEO Plan Ireland
Helen Bjørnøy, National Director Plan Norway
Monique van ‘t Hek, National Director Plan Netherlands
Concha Lopéz García, National Director Plan Spain
Anna Hagg-Sjöquist, National Director Plan Sweden

* This figure is calculated according to the amounts earmarked for EU aid both within and outside the Multiannual Financial Framework, specifically the following: Development Cooperation Instrument, Humanitarian Aid, Emergency Aid Reserve and European Development Fund.