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European Union

Joint open letter to the authorities: EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027

Joint Open Letter by the Brussels-based networks HRDN, of which OMCT is a member organisation, CONCORD, EPLO and VOICE.

20 June 2018

Dear EU Heads of State and Government,

Re. EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027

We are writing to you in advance of the European Council on 28 and 29 June. As you are aware, the EU’s external actions should be based on its values as set out in Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty and which have led to a number of international commitments on development, humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, gender equality, rule of law, and human rights and democracy. We hope that you will find time during your upcoming discussions on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) to reflect on these commitments, including the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Agenda for Humanity, the Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, and the European Consensus on Development.

We strongly believe that the decisions you make in the coming months about the size and scope of the next MFF will be central to ensuring that the EU is able to translate its laudable ambitions into concrete actions. In this context, we urge you to consider the following recommendations:

1. Increase the budget for the EU’s external actions

Our networks welcome the European Commission’s (EC) communication of 2 May which foresees a moderate increase in the expenditure ceiling for the EU’s external actions and we urge you to renew the commitment which the European Council made in February 2013 to spend at least 90% of the external relations heading on ODA-eligible actions as defined by the current OECD-DAC definition.

EU development co-operation should have a clear focus on the needs of partner countries’ populations and be fully aligned with aid and development effectiveness principles rather than be driven by short-term self-interest. Similarly, EU humanitarian assistance should be need-based and guided by the humanitarian principles.

2. Maintain separate external financing instruments for development aid, humanitarian assistance, human rights and democracy, and peacebuilding

Our networks are convinced that separate instruments for development aid, humanitarian assistance, human rights and democracy, and peacebuilding in the current MFF have allowed the EU to make a significant difference in these areas. In our view, it would be possible to increase complementarity and coordination between the various instruments without merging them all for the sake of simplification. Based on the EC’s proposal, it is not clear that the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) will provide adequate levels of predictability, transparency and accountability with regard to the EU’s commitment to development aid, humanitarian assistance, human rights and democracy, and peacebuilding.

The EU should demonstrate its continued commitment to promoting human rights and democracy in its partner countries by maintaining a separate thematic instrument. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights has played a major role in protecting and promoting human rights and democracy. The EU’s support in these areas should include adequate, independent and impartial funding to individuals and organisations working on human rights, civil society space and democracy, irrespective of their legal status.

Given the important role which the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace has played in terms of enabling the EU to support peacebuilding and conflict prevention in its partner countries, we believe that the EU should maintain a separate instrument which is dedicated to supporting civilian peacebuilding activities.

Furthermore, we call for the creation of a dedicated Sustainable Development Instrument which is 100% ODA-eligible, fully aligned with aid and development effectiveness principles, and targeted at poverty eradication and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.

We welcome the EC’s proposal to keep a separate humanitarian aid instrument based on the Humanitarian Aid Regulation. The existence of a separate instrument and budget line has helped to ensure that EU humanitarian aid can be delivered according to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality and a need-based approach as it maintains a clear separation between the source of humanitarian aid funding and other financing instruments which have political objectives. It is also the best budgetary set up to match the important operational necessity of reaching people before it is too late.

3. Increase support for civil society

Civil society actors play a key role in helping the EU to achieve its external action objectives in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance, peacebuilding, gender equality, rule of law, human rights and democracy. It is, therefore, essential that the EU continues to support civil society organisations (CSOs) to fulfil this important role. In this context, the amount of funding which is allocated to CSOs in proposed Heading 6 (Neighbourhood and the World) must be greater than the amount which is allocated under current Heading 4 (Global Europe). All future external financing instruments should be as accessible as possible to a diverse range of CSOs, and this should be reflected in the rules which govern them.

In addition to providing financial support to civil society actors, the EU should continue to provide political support to civil society, especially in those countries where CSOs face undue interference in their activities via legislative and administrative barriers, or arbitrary interference from the state or non-state actors.

We wish you fruitful discussions in the coming weeks and we look forward to engaging with you on these and other issues as the negotiations on the next MFF progress.

Yours sincerely,

Seamus Jeffreson, Director, CONCORD

Sonya Reines-Djivanides, Executive Director, EPLO

Tinatin Tsertsvadze, Troika member, HRDN

Kathrin Schick, Director, VOICE


Mr Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission

Mr Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources

Mr Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development

Mr Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management

Mr Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship

Mr Julian King, Commissioner for Security Union


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