Sunday, 27 March 2011

Another day in the life of an EU Commissioner

Recently we met EU Commissioner for development, Andris Piebalgs in the capital of the tiny island state Vanuatu, one of the destinations in the Commissioner´s  grand tour of the Pacific. His main task during the visit was to announce the EU´s willingness to add 50 million euro to previous EU climate change commitments to a number of “sinking” (not true) islands states.
No wonder our dear commissioner was treated royally by his hosts in the different exotic islands he and his entourage visited.

         The "official" dark suit look - somewhat out of place in the South Pacific

Unfortunately all nice things must come to an end, and our Commissioner finally had to return to Brussels, in order to prepare for the next exotic trip, this time to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

But before that, the hard working Commissioner found time to visit Ireland – a member country which recently has been in the news for other reasons than climate change.

The Irish Times reports about the Commissioner´s visit:

Andris Piebalgs told a conference organised by Trócaire that EU countries had promised to meet the target of spending 0.7 per cent of GNP on development aid on many occasions and should do so despite the global economic downturn.

Speaking at a Dublin event to discuss Trócaire's Leading Edge 2020  document about the future for international non-government organisations, he warned that the credibility of donor countries was on the line.

"If you don't do this, it is not just the projects that it will fail. If there is no trust, there is no success. If you promise you should deliver," he said.
Mr Piebalgs, who is an ex-Latvian finance minister said he would impressing upon the Irish Government that it should make the commitment to the 0.7 per cent target despite the financial position facing the country.He noted that Ireland's contribution peaked at 0.59 per cent in 2009, the first full year of the recession and the development aid budget had been disproportionately cut since.Mr Piebalgs said it was not the "billions in promises" that saved lives but the millions in actual aid.

The EU accounts for 60 per cent of the world's development aid budget. To date only EU countries have met the development aid target. Ireland is behind Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg but ahead of the rest of the EU in terms of the percentage of its GNP that it gives to the developing world.

Here we have an unelected EU bureaucrat criticising the economically hard hit people of an almost bankrupt member country ( mainly because Ireland is a member of the euro zone) for not spending enough on development - including climate change - aid! This is, of course, an outrage. Mr. Piebalgs should have been thrown out of the country after such an insult. But, as the EU now is in reality master of the Irish house, the reaction of the Irish government was rather timid, to say the least:

the new Minister of State for Trade and Development Jan O'Sullivan said the Government was committed to the 0.7 GNP target by 2015.

However, she conceded this goal would be "difficult to achieve" and it was imperative that the aid given was used to maximise the impact on poor people and communities.

 Read the entire article here.

Today, after the brief Irish interlude, Commissioner Pielbags should have arrived in Addis Ababa. This time there is very little information available about what he actually will be doing in the Ethiopian capital (Is his PR staff on holiday?) This brief message on his home page is all there is:
Commissioner Andris PIEBALGS visits Addis Ababa
27/03/2011 - 29/03/2011
tothe 4th Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance
participate at

However, judging from what the Commissioner has been doing on similar previous trips (e.g. to the South Pacific) it is not unlikely that he will announce the availability of some new development and climate change aid millions (paid for by the Irish and other member country tax payers) to the African dignitaries gathered in Addis Ababa.

Most likely the Commissioner will not be bothering his hosts with this small problem:

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The European community will give Ethiopia a $17.8 million grant to build a carbon-neutral economy, the European commissioner for development said.
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs met Monday with Ethiopian Finance Minister Sufian Ahmed to discuss a grant to implement the Global Climate Change Alliance in the country.
The European Commission said the primary objective of the GCCA is to build a carbon neutral and climate resilient economy in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of European development aid. Europe also represents one of the largest export markets for Ethiopian goods.
The GCCA program aims to build a healthy climate relationship between the European community and developing countries that the commission said were the most vulnerable to climate change.
Human Rights Watch called on European leaders to pressure Ethiopia to address alleged misuse of development aid. The rights group said international financial assistance to Ethiopia has increased along with political repression in the country.
"Government services, funded by the European Union and other donors, are administered in a partisan way so that essential agricultural inputs, land, and even food for work programs are used as tools to reward loyal supporters and punish the families of members of the opposition, with serious humanitarian consequences," the rights group said in a statement.

Read the entire article here.

And this subject will definitively not be on the Commissioner´s agenda when he meets the African dignitaries:

Britain warns EU over corruption in its aid programmes

Britain warned the EU on Monday that it was ready to withhold hundreds of millions of pounds from the body's international aid programmes if it does not tackle pervasive corruption and waste.


Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, has teamed up with his Swedish counterpart in a campaign to force Brussels to open up its aid spending to independent scrutiny. He told a meeting in Brussels that he and Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden's development minister, were ready to block co-operation to promote change.


Studies have found that administrative costs swallow up far more of EU spending than the best performing national aid programmes. It has been estimated that the EU's own mistakes result in delays in 40 per cent of all projects. The aid budget accounts for one-fifth of fraud enquiries in the EU.

Read the entire article here.

Another subject not on the Commissioner´s agenda with the African dignitaries is this:

SPIEGEL Interview with African Economics Expert

"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Read the entire interview here.

Many other experts have come to the same conclusion as Dr. Shikwati. The prominent economist Dambisa Mayo is one of them:



This blog will continue to observe Commissioner Piebalgs at work and is looking forward to keep its readers informed about about exciting new destinations on his schedule.





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