Police car checks the border between Ungen and Serbia.

The EU aid budget may be increasingly financed by EU border controls, believes debater Bodil Valero. Photo: Bőr Benedek (CC BY 2.0)


EU assistance should not be used for defense purposes

Tomorrow, the EU will vote to merge several different programs for financing foreign and development cooperation. This can shift the focus from poverty reduction to safeguarding the EU's own interests. EU aid money should not go to defense purposes or to stop refugees at the borders, writes environmentalist Bodil Valero.

The EU is the world's largest donor. The Union is an important player in the work of development, democracy and human rights throughout the world. Many of the EU's programs for financing foreign and development cooperation will now be merged into one and the same instrument. The new instrument, NDICI (Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation), is intended to be more flexible and efficient. But the merger also risks leading to a shift in the EU's focus on development assistance.

There is a clear risk that the merger will result in a shift in focus from international objectives, poverty reduction and development cooperation to the EU's own geopolitical interests, such as managing migration, promoting stability in the EU's neighbors and promoting the EU's own trade interests. It is really difficult to see the point of merging several well-functioning instruments into a single mega-instrument, where the boundaries between different types of efforts are blurred.

NDICI has a budget of approximately SEK 93 billion. It is a huge budget, which, if used properly, can do a lot of good for the development of the world. The Green Group - which includes the Green Party - has been one of the most active players in the negotiations and we have also achieved great success. We have demanded that the largest part of the total budget go to the areas of human rights, development and climate and the environment. It has yielded results - all areas are given substantial funds.

However, the proposal also contains large allocations for migration. The focus is on how NDICI can be used to counter irregular migration and to support the EU's neighbors with financial means to manage migration flows. Defense expansion also has its own item of EUR 270 million. We have worked hard against this.

EU aid money should not go to receiving refugees at the border. Nor should development assistance money be used to finance defense purposes. We must actively try to prevent all attempts to take funds from aid, human rights and peace work to other things, such as migration and border controls. Paying the EU's neighbors to receive more refugees and spend more resources on border controls is not what creates a humane migration policy - what is needed are legal avenues and more cooperation within the EU.

Although there are positive things with NDICI, it is obvious that many important perspectives risk being lost. We must not forget that it is the long-term work that creates real difference and that increases our chances of achieving the global development goals. The majorities that exist in Parliament after the election will certainly affect the conditions for continued constructive development work.

I will actively work to ensure that the new development instrument is followed up and that important perspectives such as gender equality perspectives, children's perspectives and democracy are not forgotten. The EU must continue to be a guiding light in the world in the work on democracy and human rights.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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