Where is Development Cooperation heading to?

The hearings of the Commissioners designate kicked off on Monday 30 September. The Commissioner designate for Development Cooperation (now ‘International Partnerships’), Jutta Urpilainen, was due to have the opportunity to convince the Members of the European Parliament about her plan to implement her portfolio on 1 October.

The mission letter to Commissioner-candidate Urpilainen contains positive elements but also a few elements of concern.   The Commissioner designate will have a chance to further explain these and give a more concrete sense of where the EU development cooperation policy will be heading to in the next five years.

Among the positive elements, such as the focus on women and girls, the Commission President indicated that “Each Commissioner will ensure the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals within their policy area”. This is certainly a very positive political guideline, especially in the development cooperation area, as it will include the much-needed policy coherence for sustainable development to reduce the spill-over impacts of a wide range of EU policies on the people and on the planet. We trust Jutta Urpilainen will emphasise this during her hearing.

The focus on supporting civil society around the world is a positive continuation of the EU communication of 2012 “The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with Civil Society in external relations”. Today, the reality that many CSOs and activists all around the world experience daily is one of threats, intimidation, and reduced space to operate freely. The new Commissioner is offered the chance today to underline her commitment to work alongside CSOs and for civic space to flourish. We trust she will illustrate how she intends to ensure that EU development cooperation policies and programmes support the development of an enabling space for CSOs to operate and for human rights defenders to continue their activities safely.

The mission letter gave rise to some concerns too. To start with, in the new Commission, the former ‘International Cooperation & Development’ portfolio becomes ‘International Partnerships’. Development is not only about partnership nor about merely pursuing Europe’s interest. The Commissioner-designate was due to be asked who the main actors of these partnerships are and what the main objectives are that such partnerships should pursue on her watch.

Furthermore, as a general remark for all the mission letters concerned, the language on migration is pretty ambiguous and the Commissioner designate will need to state what her position on this matter is. We expect it to be progressive, given her political stand. We will keep advocating for EU Official Development Assistance (ODA) not to be diverted to migration control or to cover the costs of receiving refugees within Europe instead of reducing poverty and inequalities in third countries. We hope to find support for these guidelines in her leadership on this matter.

In preparation for the hearing, SOLIDAR has been engaging with Members of the European Parliament asking them to raise questions and give her the opportunity to better unveil her vision of the future direction of EU development cooperation policy within the broader EU External policies framework and how she will work with the other European Commission members to ensure policy coherence for sustainable development.

SOLIDAR stands ready to contribute to ensuring that  EU development cooperation policy remains a success story of the European project and a story that many Europeans support (as the Eurobarometer keeps reminding us). We are ready to continue our close cooperation with the Commission to strive for a more social Europe for all European citizens. We will continue to monitor the hearings and all developments associated with them.


This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of SOLIDAR and can under no circumstances be taken as reflecting the position of the European Union

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