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Policy Coherence on Development (PCD) in the context of European Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the "Global Europe: competing in the world"-strategy

The first broad and most recent evaluation commissioned by the group of Heads of the EU Member States' development cooperation evaluation services and the EC, "Evaluating Co-ordination, Complementarity and Coherence in EU development policy - a synthesis - ref. 1107" (Nov.2007), determined that with respect to the Triple C: Coordination, Complementarity and Coherence in EU Development Policy still "only limited evidence could be found of clear positive results in terms of policy change and greater levels of policy coherence for development. This can be concluded from the fact that (1) working experience with many mechanisms is still relatively recent; (2) lack of clarity remains on what type of impact is sought through a particular mechanism in terms of promoting PCD; (3) there is often still a lack of clarity about the involvement and roles of different actors – ministries, civil society, private sector, parliaments, etc. – and the modus operandi of the mechanisms; (4) little attention is paid to monitoring and evaluation; and (5) as yet there is limited sense of longer term planning and continuity over time." The evaluation report concludes emphasizing "the importance of broad civil and cross-party political support to the long-term success of PCD. To ensure the creation and consolidation of such broad political support, the evaluation team stresses the need for strategies to strengthen and maintain political support for PCD through involving parliaments, civil society, academia and the media."

This heavy critique is of the uttermost significance, because the Triple C for PCD has in recent years become one of the strict normative and fundamental laws of the European Union: The Triple C for PCD developed since the Maastricht Teaty 1992 (Art.130u and Art.130v) and continued its evolution with the European Community Treaty's Art.3, Art.177 (ex-130u) and Art.178 (ex-130v), following to the EC's Annual Report (COM(2003)0527) and the Conclusions of the European Council on PCD (14075/06) as well as several EC's Communications to the European Council (COM(2005)134) and (COM(2006)278) to the PCD-milestone for Europe's Development Policy, 'The European Consensus on Development' (14820/05). The latest steps were taken by EC's reflection on PCD in the Commssion's Working Paper 'EU Report on Policy Coherence for Development' (COM(2007)545 final).

This even officially recognized lack of consistency between a norm's policy and its policy practise makes one wonder, how the European push for FTAs and the "Global Europe: competing in the world"-strategy could be able to do no harm to PCD in terms of Millennium Development Goals MDG 1) Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger; MDG 2) Achieve Universal Primary Education; MDG 3) Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women; MDG 4) Reduce Child Mortality; MDG 5) Improve Maternal Health; MDG 6) Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases; MDG 7) Ensure Environmental Sustainability; MDG 8) Develop a Global Partnership for Development and for the ILO-goal of Decent Work for All as a cross-sector issue being essential for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals.

The new FTAs being shaped by the European Commission form the legal basis for the European Union's and their member states' (together with their Bilateral Investment Treaties - BITs) future relations with developing countries not only in terms of political cooperation and political dialogue, but also in the area of trade and investment (the "three pillars" of European external trade policy). While the trade negotiations in the WTO are stalled since the 2003 conference in Cancún, a wave of new bilateral and regional trade agreements (BTAs and RTAs) is accelerating. Currently, there are more than 282 bilateral and regional trade agreements in force, 255 of them so-called “Reciprocal Trade Agreements”? and 27 so-called “Non-Reciprocal Trade Agreements”?. 192 of the reciprocal ones are of intra-regional nature, 63 inter-regional. And the European FTAs all deal with sensitive and highly disputed areas like NAMA - non-agricultural market access, agricultural goods, services, government procurement, investment, intellectual property rights, standards etc. The liberalization of these sectors - by letting them only be guided by market rules - is not in any way going to be the solution, but rather the problem itself.

Normatively it should be imperative for the EU's PCD to ensure that this bilateral relations strategy takes into account development needs, the environment and economic, social and cultural human rights especially of the weaker trade partners. Social movements and civil society organizations from the "South" and "North" are heavily criticizing this FTA-and 'Global Europe'-strategy. Currently there are several ongoing and intensifying EU's FTA negotiations: With ACP-countries in the EPA-negotiations, with the Andean Community, Central America, Cariforum and MERCOSUR as well as with China and India and the ASEAN trade bloc etc. Poverty reduction in many countries in these regions is crucial for any framework for development, especially because of their Human Development Index (HDI between 0,80 and 0,50 for developing countries and even below 0,50 in some cases and Human Poverty Index (HPI-1 ranging from 5 up to 20%, in some countries up to almost 50%).

The European Free Trade Agreements-strategy has to be seen in the lights of the "Global Europe: competing in the world"-strategy”?, which after the failure of multilateralism of the Doha-Agenda of the WTO is being vehemently propagated by EU trade commission. Trade Commissioner Mandelson announced the new 'Global Europe' -strategy on october 4th 2006. For the EC "[i]n a globalised world, Europe’s trade policy must become an integral part of its wider approach to economic reform and competitiveness. A stronger EU economy at home means Europe has to be more competitive abroad. We need to open markets and create new".

This new strategy, as a far-reaching trade and competitiveness agenda, serving European Transnational Corporations (TNCs), marks a new phase in EU trade policy. As the EU Trade Commissioner Mandelson expressed it, without leaving any doubts to what is the agenda's aim: "What do we mean by external aspects of competitiveness? We mean ensuring that competitive European companies, supported by the right internal policies, must be enabled to gain access to, and to operate securely in, world markets. That is our agenda." (Churchill Lecture, Federal Foreign Office, Berlin, 18 September 2006).

"Competitiveness" in a globalized world economy for the EU Commission means, that in the global race for markets and resources, the EU now wants to seize its chance and tries to "defend" the interests of its “global players”?, i.e. European transnational corporations, by massively pushing for a liberalization of the markets of the South. Whether this helps to ensure to achieve Europe's normative PCD-approach must be severely doubted.

Christian Russau (FDCL), march 2008