EU Development Cooperation Policy

The objective of the European Union (EU) development cooperation policy is to fight poverty and contribute to economic and social development in developing countries, and especially in the poorest ones. EU seeks to integrate these countries into the world economy and simultaneously promote the dissemination of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

The EU development cooperation policy is implemented by the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA - EuropeAid) and other DG’s), the European External Action Service, the EU representations worldwide, the EU Member States, non-governmental organisations. 

Development cooperation constitutes a very important part of the European Union’s external relations. Most probably, this is the most important instrument developing the EU’s soft power and shaping a positive image of Europe in developing countries. The EU is the world leader in terms of official development assistance volume: it allocates more than 50 per cent of the world’s total official development assistance.

The common principles of EU development cooperation are embedded in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty and the The New European Consensus on Development adopted in 2017.The latter sets out the priorities and implementing measures with the aim to contribute to the achievement of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Poverty eradication remains the primary objective of development policy under the new Consensus. It also integrates the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and underlines the links between development and other policies including peace and security, humanitarian aid, migration and climate.

The EU's development cooperation policy is supported by the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), which came into force in 2021 and brings together all the EU's external action funding instruments. It aims to help partner countries eradicate poverty, promote sustainable development, prosperity, peace and stability.

The instrument's funding is distributed across 3 pillars:

  • Geographical - to promote dialogue and cooperation with third countries. All regional financial envelopes will be tailored to the needs and priorities of the regions concerned, in line with the EU's strategic priorities, in particular in the EU's neighbourhood and in Africa and in the countries in greatest need.
  • Thematic - to support human rights and democracy, civil society, stability and peace. It will complement the activities included in the geographical pillar when they need to be undertaken globally.
  • Rapid Response - enabling the EU to apply conflict prevention measures and respond quickly and effectively to crises or lack of stability. This pillar will build the resilience of partner countries and take pre-emptive action to respond to the EU's foreign policy needs and priorities.

In December 2021, the European Commission unveiled an ambitious Global Gateway investment programme for the period 2021-2027, through which the EU institutions, together with Member States, aim to develop digital technologies, green energy and clean transport networks, improve health and education systems, and promote research around the world, and in particular in developing countries.

The Global Gateway programme will mobilise up to €300 billion of investment in partner countries, implemented in line with European standards of democracy and transparency.

Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council (July-December 2013)

During the Presidency period, the conclusions of the EU Council on poverty eradication and EU financing for the future post-2015 development agenda were adopted. Particular attention was paid to the EU’s preparation for the review of the Millennium Development Goals of the UN General Assembly, which will be held on 25 September 2013. Negotiations with the European Parliament over the Regulation on the Development Cooperation Instrument were completed and the position of the EU Council for the negotiations over the decision to announce the year 2015 as the European Year for Development was approved.

The conclusions of the EU Council on policy coherence for development, the EU assistance for democratic governance, and the EU’s development and external assistance policy and its implementation report for 2012 in the area of the EU’s partnership with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Besides, the EU Council adopted the decision on the provisional application of measures of the 11th European Development Fund, thus ensuring the uninterrupted EU funding from the beginning of 2014; and an important decision of the Council on the Overseas Countries and Territories was also approved.

Financial Instruments for EU External Action

The main financial instruments for EU external action include the Development Cooperation Instrument, the European Development Fund and the European Neighbourhood Instrument.

Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) is the largest development funding source within the EU budget, covering development cooperation with Latin America, the Gulf region, South Africa and Central, East and South-East Asia. The Development Cooperation Instrument for 2014–2020 approved in March 2014 amounts to EUR 19.6 billion. The Instrument covers three components intended for all developing countries:

1. Geographic programme: a total of EUR 11.8 billion is allocated to Latin America, South Asia, North and South-East Asia, Central Asia, and the Near East;

2. Thematic programmes:

  • Global Public Goods and Challenges programme: EUR 5.1 billion is earmarked for the areas of environment and climate change, sustainable energy, social development, food and nutrition security, migration and asylum;
  • Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities programme: EUR 1.9 billion is allocated to strengthening of the abilities of civil public organisations and enhancement of public awareness on development issues.

3. Pan-African Programme: EUR 0.85 billion is allocated for the areas of peace and security, democratic governance and human rights, trade, the Millennium Development Goals, energy, climate change, migration, scientific and information society.

Funding can take the form of direct budget support for partner countries or for decentralised bodies, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, international organisations or other EU institutions.

European Development Fund (EDF) is the EU’s oldest and largest development instrument which is not part of the EU budget. The EDF funds are used to support cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the Union’s Overseas Countries and Territories. The key areas of the EPF include economic development, social and human development, and regional cooperation and integration. The 11th EDF financial package for 2014–2020 amounts to EUR 30.5 billion. These funds are allocated as follows:

  • EUR 29.1 billion – for development of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries;
  • EUR 0.36 billion – for the EU’s Overseas Countries and Territories;
  • EUR 1.05 billion – to the European Commission for the EDF programming and implementation.
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