This profile has been updated in March 2018.
Strategic priorities
  • The EU’s development policy is set out in the European Consensus on Development, renewed in 2017. Its objectives are poverty reduction and alignment with the 2030 Agenda. It focuses on interlinkages between sectors, combining traditional development assistance with other resources and promoting tailor-made partnerships.
  • The EU’s 2012 Agenda for Change outlines policy guidelines that complement the Consensus. It stipulates increasing the effectiveness and impact of the EU’s development policy as key goals, including a more targeted allocation of funding and budget support with stricter aid conditionality. It calls for a focus on the poorest countries and engagement with the private sector.
Key opportunities
  • The Cotonou Agreement, which governs EDF funding and relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, will expire in February 2020: EU member states have begun discussing the Commission’s negotiating directives for “post-Cotonou”. The first half of 2018 is a pivotal moment to influence EU member states’ positions, and the second part of the year to engage with the Commission, European Parliament, and ACP countries.
  • In 2018 and early 2019, the EU institutions will agree on the priorities, structure and budgets for the MFF 2021-2027. The Commission will present a first proposal in May 2018. EU member states must decide how much they are willing to commit to the next EU budget and what the spending priorities and limits should be. These discussions, in parallel with Brexit negotiations, could significantly change the structure of EU ODA.

Key Questions

the big six

The EU supports the construction of the 932m Kazungula Bridge over the Zambezi river, connecting Zambia and Botswana. Infrastructure is the largest bilateral ODA sector of the EC.



How will EU's ODA develop? — What will EU’s ODA focus on? —What are key opportunities for shaping EU development policy? read more

How will the EU's ODA develop?

  • Sector priorities and allocations are set within the multiannual financing framework (MFF), currently 2014-2020. The estimated budget for development assistance for 2018, including the EDF, DCI, and EIB loans, is US$16.0 billion.
  • The result of the British referendum to leave the EU may have significant consequences on the EU’s development cooperation. The UK contributes approximately US$1.8 billion annually to EU development programs through the EU’s general budget and the EDF. It is likely that the UK’s contribution to EU ODA will decrease as of 2020. However, it is still unclear exactly how this will unfold and what will happen prior to 2020.

What will be in focus?

  • Funding for humanitarian assistance and to address humanitarian crises and migration inside and outside of the EU will remain a strong focus of the EU’s ODA.
  • Funding for agriculture, education, and health are likely to remain stable. The European Consensus on Development agreed to in 2017 commits the EU to spending at least 20% of its ODA on health and social inclusion. While it has made strides in this direction, the EU has yet to meet this target during the current MFF.
  • A planned increase in focus on low-income countries may change in response to findings of the mid-term reviews of the EU’s external financing instruments, done in 2017, which found that relations with middle-income countries requires renewed attention.

What are key opportunities for shaping the EU’s development policy?

  • The post-Cotonou agreement with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) group is likely to lead to changes to the EU’s relationship with the ACP countries. 2018 will be a pivotal year to shape the negotiations on a new agreement with the ACP, as both the EU member states and the EU institutions will be determining the priorities and structure for the future relationship.
  • EU member states and EU institutional positioning and negotiations on the 2021-2027 MFF, and its attendant development policy objectives, instruments, implementation mechanisms, and budget commitments will take place in 2018. In May 2018, the European Commission will present a first proposal for the 2021-2027 MFF.
  • In May 2019, European Parliament elections will be held. This will be followed by appointment of a whole new cabinet of European Commissioners.


Further readings

Government sources

Civil society

Other official sources