I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 to 295, inclusive, and 300 together.
The General Affairs and External Relations Council is discussing a cluster of development co-operation issues at today's meeting in Luxembourg. These issues include the follow up to the commitments given by the EU at the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development; the preparation of the EU's contribution for the United Nations high level event in 2005 to review progress towards the achievement of the millennium development goals; and a debate on the reform of European Commission external assistance. Ireland, since assuming the European Union Presidency, has given priority to advancing EU action in all of these areas.
The eighth millennium development goal provides for the development of a global partnership for development. While the other seven millennium development goals are primarily focused on developing countries, the eighth goal provides a role for donors in facilitating the achievement of the millennium development goals through a strengthened partnership with developing countries. The eighth goal has subsequently been elaborated by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme to embrace issues such as greater policy coherence, particularly in trade, debt relief and increased overseas development assistance.
In January 2004, the first General Affairs and External Relations Council under Ireland's Presidency agreed conclusions which said that Ministers would consider, at the April General Affairs and External Relations Council, inviting the Commission to take on a role in monitoring the EU's contribution to the achievement of the millennium development goals. Ministers also stated that they believed that the EU's commitment to the achievement of the millennium development goals should be reflected across the range of the Union's policies and in its decisions on financial allocations.
The Commission recently issued a paper outlining how a stocktaking of EU member states' contributions to the achievement of the millennium development goals, including the eighth goal, could be undertaken. At today's General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting, the Presidency is pressing member states to give the Commission a formal mandate to embark on this work. The result of this stocktaking exercise, which will include an analysis of the extent to which member states have internalised the millennium development goals in their national development co-operation policies, will be an important element in the EU's contribution to the major UN review of progress towards the millennium development goals in 2005.
The Presidency has proposed that the draft Council conclusions on this issue should highlight the importance of the seventh goal, which deals with the environment, and the eighth goal, as they are of most relevance to donors. The template for the national millennium development goal reports, proposed by the Commission, includes 15 indicators for monitoring the efforts of the member states on these two goals.
A debate on the reform of EC external assistance, which is managed by the Commission, is also being held at today's meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Commissioner Nielson is to provide Ministers with an update on the reform process. The Presidency, with the support of member states, is anxious to ensure that the achievements registered so far in reforming the efficiency and effectiveness of EC aid are maintained and strengthened. It will be important that later this year the new Commission should have the necessary structures to achieve this. Ireland would like to see a dedicated portfolio responsibility for this critical area of policy in this Commission later this year.
The question of reaching the UN goal of spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development aid relates to the first of the eight commitments which the EU undertook at the Barcelona Council on 14 March 2002, as its contribution to the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development. At Barcelona, those EU member states that had not reached the UN 0.7% target committed themselves, as a first step, individually to increase their overseas development aid in 2003-2006 so that collectively an EU average of 0.39% overseas development aid/gross national income is reached by 2006. All EU member states will also strive to reach, within their respective budget allocation processes, at least 0.33% overseas development aid/gross national income by 2006.
At today's General Affairs and External Relations Council, Ministers are discussing the second annual monitoring exercise by the Commission on the progress achieved in meeting the Monterrey commitments, including that in relation to the volume of overseas development aid. The second Commission report indicates that this commitment is now well on track. In 2002, the EU member states collectively increased their overseas development aid by 2.8% and provided 0.34% of their gross national income to overseas development aid. The Commission estimates that if all current overseas development aid commitments are met, then the EU will exceed the Barcelona commitment to reach an average EU overseas development aid of 0.39% of gross national income by 2006 and will instead reach 0.43% of gross national income.
All the EU member states are committed to reaching the UN target of 0.7%. Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden have already reached or exceeded the target. Belgium and Ireland have indicated timeframes by which they might reach the target. While decisions on establishing national timeframes for reaching the UN target are the responsibility of EU member states' governments, the monitoring exercise undertaken by the Commission, on foot of the Barcelona commitments, is playing a key role in encouraging member states to increase their overseas development aid on the way to meeting the UN 0.7% target.
Article 177 of the European Union Consolidated Treaties states, inter alia, that Community policy in the sphere of development co-operation, which shall be complementary to the policies pursued by member states, shall foster “the campaign against poverty in the developing countries”. Poverty reduction is, therefore, already anchored in the existing treaties. Last year, together with six of my EU ministerial colleagues, in a joint position paper to the Convention on the Future of Europe, I helped to have a reference to poverty reduction inserted as the objective of EU development co-operation in the text of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty.
There is nothing in the EU declaration on combating terrorism, adopted at the European Council on 25 March 2004, which states that receipt of EU development assistance will be directly linked to developing states' efforts in containing terrorism. Section 12 of the declaration, which deals with international co-operation, commits the European Union to ensuring effective and practical co-operation with third countries through the "development of technical assistance strategies, to facilitate vulnerable third countries in enhancing their counter-terrorism capability, and by addressing counter-terrorism concerns into all relevant assistance programmes to promote good governance and the rule of law". There is no implication in this to suggest that receipt of EU development assistance would in any way be linked to states' efforts to combat terrorism.