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Defend EU aid: An open letter to EU leaders

4 December 2015
We are writing to express our deep concern over the current state of the negotiations on the EU’s budget for 2015. The outcome of the ongoing discussions between the European Parliament and Council will have major implications for Europeans as well as people beyond our borders, and could result in the European Commission being unable to honour its 2014 commitments to partners or to provide new funding in 2015.

An open letter to EU leaders to defend the European Commission’s proposal for the EU Budget 2015.

We are writing to express our deep concern over the current state of the negotiations on the EU’s budget for 2015. The outcome of the ongoing discussions between the European Parliament and Council will have major implications for Europeans as well as people beyond our borders, and could result in the European Commission being unable to honour its 2014 commitments to partners or to provide new funding in 2015.

The EU plays an important role in supporting international development, and you have continued to reaffirm your commitment to meeting the collective target of 0.7% by 2015. We urge you to take this responsibility seriously by defending the proposed 2015 development cooperation budget, protecting it from severe and unjustified cuts.

Impact of EU aid

As representatives of Plan International’s offices in Europe, and on behalf of the 78 million children and 90,000 communities we work with in 51 developing countries worldwide, we, the undersigned, therefore call on you to stand up for EU aid.

The proportion of EU spending set aside for life-saving and life-changing interventions represents a fraction of the overall budget, yet it has a catalytic effect in helping people to pull themselves out of poverty. Despite recent austerity measures, we urge you to refuse to make budget savings at the expense of the world’s poor. Reducing the EU aid budget by even the smallest amount has life or death consequences for the world’s most vulnerable people.

This is particularly true when it comes to children, who represent half the population of developing countries. Child poverty is on the rise worldwide. We know that investing in children, particularly girls, is one of the most effective uses of EU money and is key to tackling rising inequality, promoting stability and fostering 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 eight years, EU aid helped enroll almost 14 million new pupils in primary education, vaccinate more than 18 million children under the age of one against measles and connect over 70 million people to improved drinking water. The EU is rightly proud of these achievements, but the job is far from over. Cutting EU aid now jeopardises the progress made towards sustainable development over previous years.

Respect EU aid commitments

As you are aware, Heading 4 (Global Europe) accounts for a mere 6% of the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework covering 2014 to 2020. We therefore do not believe that cutting the budget available under this heading will result in the overall savings which certain Member States seek. The cuts to the various external financing instruments will, however, have a severely negative impact on the achievement of the EU’s external policy objectives in 2015 and thereafter.

Cutting the EU’s development aid budget will exacerbate the liquidity crisis which has snowballed over recent years. With outstanding debts transferred from previous years and an insufficient budget for 2015, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation is facing the prospect of running out of money by mid-2015. This will have two very serious implications. Firstly, the Commission will be able to sign far fewer contracts in 2015. Secondly, there will be major consequences for grant beneficiaries, who will be forced to pre-finance their projects. This will not be easily absorbed, particularly for smaller, local civil society organisations.

Such stop-gap measures would send the wrong signal at a time when the EU should be using its position as a global player to push for an ambitious and transformative post-2015 sustainable development framework, backed by adequate financial means of implementation.

Thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, poverty eradication and the protection of children’s rights are clear priorities for the EU in its external action. If the EU is serious about its commitments, this must be reflected in a robust development budget in 2015 and beyond.

EU member states – collectively and individually – must demonstrate the global leadership they so often profess. On behalf of millions of children around the world, we therefore call on you to defend EU aid.

Yours sincerely,

Dirk Van Maele, National Director Plan Belgium
Gwen Wisti, National Director Plan Denmark
Ossi Heinanen, National Director Plan Finland
Alain Caudrelier-Bénac, National Director Plan France
Maike Röttger, National Director Plan Germany
David Dalton, CEO Plan Ireland
Tiziana Fattori, National Director Plan Italy
Monique van ‘t Hek, National Director Plan Netherlands
Olaf Thommessens, National Director Plan Norway
Concha Lopéz García, National Director Plan Spain
Anna Hagg-Sjöquist, National Director Plan Sweden
Tanya Barron, CEO Plan UK
Alexandra Makaroff, Head of Plan EU Office