The European Union’s MEDA Aid Programme: What kind of
PHD candidate.Centre for European Studies/Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick.
The concept of partnership is very much in vogue in the official literature of aid donors. The term implies a cooperative relationship based on the principles of mutuality and equality. Such qualities can apply to many aspects of the aid
1relationship from policy making and planning to implementation and evaluation. It is
at the more strategic level that partnership principles could have most effect in fostering a sense of national ownership of development strategies. Also it can help to spread more pluralistic and participative forms of policy-making and thus help poorer countries overcome their political as well as socio-economic challenges. However, as outlined below many observers have emphasized the hollowness and superficiality of contemporary aid partnerships. Accordingly a degree of scepticism towards partnership rhetoric is appropriate. This paper takes a critical approach towards understanding how policy-making and programming operate in one particular aid
2partnership, the European Union's MEDA programme. The MEDA programme is
analysed in the context of general EU and international development policy. As such it should be of interest to those with an interest in EU policy making as well as development policy in general.
In the Mediterranean basin, with its massive gap in prosperity between the northern and southern shores, we have a microcosm of the global north-south relationship. It was security fears related to this gap that lead the EU to create the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) with its neighbours in the region and the MEDA programme to support this partnership. Mediterranean aid forms a part of 'near abroad' aid, which takes up an increasingly large part of the EU's aid budget as opposed to traditional development aid to sub-saharan Africa. Its relationship to
traditional EU development policy is ambivalent, it operates under a different legal and political framework, yet the EU often still labels it as development policy. This form of highly politicised aid may more and more come to dominate the EU's aid agenda and so merits more attention than has been paid to it hitherto.
As stated above the focus here is on strategy formulation and programming, the process wherein the often very general official goals are translated into specific plans and funding priorities for limited periods. Each donor has its own method and format for programming, the World Bank adopts four year Country Assistance Strategies, Britain‟s Department for International Development use three year Country Assistance Plans etc. This level of planning is in fact of high importance as it determines the framework for all subsequent cooperation. In the EU‟s case there are a wide variety of actors or stakeholders involved to a certain extent or other with formulating policy. These include the Member states - at several levels, the European Parliament, other donors and international non-governmental organisations of different types. The European Commission is in control of this programming process and thus the article centres on its role and how other actors interact with it. As it is itself a supranational institution, charged with integrating and coordinating the policies of EU member states, the Commission ought to be well placed to develop and manage partnerships.
A partnership at the level of programming implies that this is done in a participatory fashion relatively open to the input of the partners; in this case the partner government and civil society. The central question of this paper is to what extent are these partners involved at the strategic level. This involves an analysis of the formal structures and procedures of MEDA programming and an investigation of how these work in practice. It is not primarily normative in that it seeks primarily to clarify how programming works. Operating a partnership it must be admitted can be highly problematic, especially when the partner governments are not democracies. Having said this one must admit a certain bias on the author's part towards the partnership ideal and it is hoped that this critique may in some way form a part of a broader dialogue on how to
; Any comments would be most welcome. As this is for discussion purposes please do not cite without permission. Acknowledgements are due to the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences for finanical support for my research. The usual disclaimers apply.
achieve a genuine partnership. The course of this paper is as follows; an overview of the role and function of partnership incontemporary development policy and EU aid policy in particular, an introduction to the Mediterranean aid programme, then a focus on the current aid programming system.
Although partnership has been a perennial theme in the rhetoric of donors in recent years, it has become especially prominent. It is worth examining how this phenomenon is related to other trends in aid policy such as increased cooperation between the major donors, a renewed focus on issues of policy and governance on their part and accordingly a widening of the scope of conditionality. A useful example here is the case of how the World Bank, probably the major agenda setter amongst international aid donors, has come to promote its own form of partnership. Basically this has arisen in response to intense criticisms of the Bank's policies and ways of doing business. The structural adjustment programmes of the 1980's with their rigid conditionalities imposing free market economic reforms were regarded as an infringement of poorer countries' sovereignty. Ironically the bank itself has recognised that trying to coerce countries into adopting certain policies has not been effective in
3any case. The actual policy mix advocated has been criticised as generic, inflexible and thus unsuited to the specific context of individual countries. In response to this the Bank now emphasises that it seeks to implement and develop its policies in a participative fashion, with governments and broader society involved leading to a sense of ownership of the development strategy.
These principles were to be given tangible effect through new operating
4frameworks most notably the Comprehensive Development Framework(CDF). The
basic principle of the latter was that countries would formulate, through a process of deep consultation including national civil society and international donors, their own long term development strategies. The Bank would then cooperate with the developing country in achieving its objectives, so forming a development partnership. The Bank makes it clear that this partnership would take different forms depending on the situation with each country. Countries could only enjoy a deep partnership with the Bank if they pursued sound macro-economic policies and upheld certain standards
of good governance, as defined by the bank. Also in some cases the question of whether the partner was in fact capable of developing a long-term development strategy was debatable. CDF processes have been piloted in a number of middle-income countries including Morocco and Jordan. One specific form of CDF for the least developed and highly indebted countries is the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper process, (PRSP), which the Bank has initiated in collaboration with other donors. On a less broad level the ever more popular sector wide adjustment programmes or SWAPs (adopted by all major donors) have similar features. More modest in scale these involve the elaboration of comprehensive strategies for specific sectors of the
5economy (health, agriculture etc).
All of the above modes of planning are supposed to be country lead but also involve closer collaboration with (and within) the donor community. It is worth noting here that aid donors have been coordinating their efforts more and more closely in recent years. One should not exaggerate this process as each aid organisation still retains its own distinct culture and procedures. There are differences for example in how far different donors have gone in creating (however superficial they may be) aid partnerships. France and Spain still have a quite centralised planning process in contrast to the Bank or Britain's Department of International Development. The latter's own programming documents the Country Assistance Plans are supposed to be explicitly based on the partner countries own development plan. This paper should illustrate where the EU's aid policies are on this scale. The primary point here however is that in terms of policy prescriptions donors have more and more developed a consensus in many areas. This may not in itself be a negative factor but it should be noted that this obviously increases the donors' power over developing countries, making an equal partnership more problematic.
There is a wealth of critical literature, alleging that the partnership rhetoric of aid donors is often disingenuous. Harrison for example points out that such partnerships can actually enable an increased role for donors in the determination of developing countries policies and forms of governance. In other words it amounts to a
6much more effective form of exerting power than any crude form of conditionality.
Crawford's case study of Indonesia illustrates how in fact power over policy and
7funding is still held by the donors. This isn't terribly surprising as aid is motivated at
least partly by donors self interest. Naturally if they wish to use aid funds to support domestic donor companies, create a favourable regulatory system for international capital or further political goals they will wish to retain control over aid policy.
The Reality of Aid (an NGO alliance) expands on these criticisms and argues
8forcefully in its 2002 report that contemporary aid partnerships are in fact hollow.
One of the reasons for this is that donors themselves shape the intellectual and institutional framework within which (and only within which) developing countries may decide their policies. As they put it „the countries are in the driving seat but the donors retain the road map‟. Also the financial leverage of donors has increased due to their closer cooperation and the use of „pre-emptive conditionality‟. Only countries
that are pursuing acceptable policies are even eligible for aid. This is most evident in the case of the PRSPs; the poorest countries in the world must elaborate an acceptable strategy to be eligible for support. The type of strategy that they must some up with is made clear through „policy dialogue‟. Also the eventual aid programme will involve technical assistance – which is effectively another means for donors to project
9influence. The report advocated more transparent and flexible programming/planning processes as a means of redressing this lack of real partnership.
EU development policy, aid policy and partnership
The first point to make clear about EU aid policy is that it has always been highly fragmented in that it has specific schemes and procedures for its aid to different areas. Also the institutional framework has changed quite a bit over the years as the EU itself and its role in the world has developed. So for example, traditional development aid to ACP (Africa Pacific Caribbean) countries has been accompanied by new types of aid instruments to support accession to the EU or transition in post communist countries. It is the latter form of aid, such as PHARE to Eastern Europe and TACIS to the ex Soviet block on which MEDA is modelled. The distinction is important because only official development policy is based on article 177 of the Treaty of European Union with the official goals of poverty reduction. However as we shall see there have been recent efforts to integrate all EU external aid schemes. An exhaustive overview of the EU aid system is beyond the scope of this paper but one noteworthy point is that since the reforms of 2000, policy making and programming is handed by
the Development or Relex DG and implementation by Europeaid office and increasingly the country delegations.
Traditional development policy would appear to be more partnership orientated than other aid instruments. The original Lome convention of 1973 was a showcase development partnership. For obvious reasons the EEC was keen to provide a different ambience to old colonial relationships. Both sides were locked into a legally binding relationship, which at first glance would seem to limit the donor‟s discretion. The National Indicative Programmes outlining strategic priorities would be country lead. However Lister argued that even the original Lome set up was in fact a form of neo-colonialism as control over disbursement remained with the EEC
10member states. In any case even this level of ownership would be substantially undercut in the course of time for the reasons mentioned in the previous section; - an increase in „policy dialogue‟ which would inevitably be one-sided given the
- an explicit element of conditionality came into play, including coordination with
the World Bank and the IMF.
- An expanded scope of intervention with increased interest given to promoting
good governance human rights and democracy were also introduced. This may be
seen as positive in some ways but if, as in the EU‟s case, the conditionality criteria
are often vague and the decision-making procedure opaque then conditionality
11becomes effectively a political tool for the Commission.
The Cotonou agreement of 2001 continued this trend and further accentuated the element of conditionality. (The poorest ACP countries are even more dependent on EU finance than their Med counterparts.)
Cotonou did introduce an interesting dimension with its explicit provision for civil society‟s involvement in programming. Thus civil society organisations,
however they would be defined, would become partners in policy making not just implementation of projects. It was hoped that the latter would be the „vitamins‟ in the programming process. Of course there are numerous difficulties in making this a reality (what organisations would be involved, what would be the exact form of consultation, how to make sure their views were taken into account etc) and precise modalities were not outlined. A Eurostep study concludes that real participation was
12highly limited in the first round of programming in 2002. A communication was
released in 2002 suggesting more specific modalities for increasing the involvement
13of NGOs in aid policy.
As stated above there have been recent moves to harmonize EU aid policy. The reforms of 2000 were not just confined to administration but also introduced a new common programming format for all EU aid schemes. This format would involve a 6 year Country Strategy Paper (CSP) subject to review and two three year National Indicative Programmes (NIPs). The reforms were aimed primarily at improving strategic coherence. However the main communication on the aid reforms did cite
14 „partnership‟ as a guiding principle.As to the new standard programming documents,
it was stipulated that they should be done in an open fashion with the input of partner governments and civil society. They were to be (if at all possible) consensus documents and based partly on the partner governments‟ own national development
15plans. They were also intended to help foster coordination and complementarity (a division of labour) with member state agencies and other donors as they should include an account of current and future activities of these actors.
Figure 1. The division of Labour within the Commission since the reforms of 2000.
Programming/Policy Implementation Area
External Relations DG Europeaid Cooperation Mediterranean
Office Countries, Ex
USSR, Asia, Latin
Country Delegation America
Development DG Europeaid Cooperation Africa, Caribbean,
Office Pacific (ACP)
The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership
The origins of the EMP lie in the EU's decision to develop a deeper relationship with its Southern rim. This stemmed from geo-political/security and economic factors. Most of the non-member states in the region have been afflicted with continued economic failure, coupled with a crisis of legitimacy in many cases, numerous internal and external conflicts and the growth of Islamic extremism. All of this, exacerbated by growing populations, rendered it necessary for the EU to take a leadership role in the region if it wanted to avoid instability (and migration) spreading north. Also the heightened geo-economic competition brought on by globalisation meant that the EU was seeking to expand its own free trade area.
Officially set in motion by the Barcelona Declaration of 1995, the reactions of
16the non-member Mediterranean states to the EU‟s new initiative varied. Some such
as Egypt were moderately enthusiastic, others most notably Syria were more reluctant. Certain governments such, such as Morocco and Tunisia were already actively lobbying for a closer relationship with the EU in the early 90's. (These countries are focussed on herein as they are engaged the deepest in the EMP). However this enthusiasm for closer cooperation in itself sprang from their asymmetric relationship with the EU. The example of Morocco may be instructive. It had since colonial times
(it was a protectorate of both France and Spain) been locked into a trading
relationship with the Europe.It was granted trade preferences when the EEC was
formed and these were regularised and expanded in ensuing agreements culminating in the co-operation agreements of 1976. However the corollary of this close relationship is that Morocco is highly vulnerable to changes in the EU and its policies. For example while Moroccan agriculture was geared towards European (French) needs under the French protectorate, the CAP and the enlargements of the EC to include Mediterranean countries did significant damage to its very important agro-
17export industry. Like other countries in the region the economic policies pursued by Moroccan governments have varied somewhat over the years. Since the financial crisis of 1982 Morocco has undergone structural adjustment type reforms guided by the World Bank and the IMF. This involved stabilising the currency, reducing government expenditure, reducing the state role in the economy in general and turning towards a more outward looking - export lead growth strategy. These structural reforms were what is sometimes described as 'first generation' in that they pertained to the overall shape of the countries‟ finances and macro economic policy. The state role
in the economy (or the role of the elites which control the state) has remained significant and so at the time the EMP was launched Morocco's regulatory system and indeed trade policy in no way resembled that of a free market economy. As to its political system it could be described as pluralistic but by no means democratic. It has always had discrete political groups competing for power, recent years have seen the growth of a relatively open civil society including many development /social /environmental NGO's which seek to influence public policy. Real power has remained in the hands of the King and the political elite Makzen and is wielded often informally through corruption and patronage. Given the fresh momentum given to economic globalisation and European integration in the 1990's the country's leadership faced little choice but to lobby for a more solidified relationship with the EU.
Morocco's situation is perhaps more extreme but essentially analogous to all the Mediterranean non-member states. The risk of being „locked out‟ was a major fear and lay behind the desire for closer cooperation. In any case the form this relationship took, the prescriptions laid out in the Barcelona Declaration outlining the EMP in 1995 came from the Europeans, not the partner governments much less their broader
society. In its specificities it is an EU project first and foremost. There are three baskets to the EMP which include; political, economic/financial and social/cultural cooperation. Basket two unsurprisingly is the engine of the process, the objective here being an eventual free trade area for the entire Euro-Med region. This will be brought about via bilateral free trade Association Agreements between the EU and individual
18countries. This integration is not just an end in itself but also a tool for engineering reform of the economic systems of the Med countries. This is seen as a prerequisite for fostering prosperity and security. However the EU's strategy has been much criticised by observers and as Joffe points out partner governments were not convinced of the feasibility of the precise regulatory model and specific reforms
The strategy and the model basically conform to the neo-liberal consensus. In accordance with the contemporary meaning of free trade the EU's bilateral free trade agreements involve more than just reducing tarrifs on goods but also require a degree of harmonization of the regulatory and institutional system with the EU's model. This may be understood as a more intensive version of what countries undergo when the join the WTO. ( Countries engaged in the EMP must join the WTO if they are not already members). It essentially involves further reducing the role of the state in the economy a process facilitated by the loss of tarrif revenues due to freer trade. It is hoped that the competitive forces unleashed by this process and the joining of a wider market together with increased foreign investment due to the successful implementation of reforms will enable the growth needed for these countries to overcome their current difficulties. The criticisms of this vision need not be recapitulated here. Suffice it to say that the EMP strategy involves immense risks. National elites in partner countries were wary partly because such reforms would involve a loss of control on their part. However they were also rightly conscious that the reforms advocated and the onset of competition with European companies will lead to much hardship for lower middle and working classes in the short term. For a country like Morocco with already massive socio-economic disparities, the dangers of instability are obvious. Thus the proposed Euro-Mediterranean partnership was always going to be a rather awkward affair, in which the Europeans very much took the lead.