Conciliation process triggered as EU's Parliament and Council disagree on 2020 budget

The Council of the EU and the European Parliament will begin a three-week budget conciliation process today following the Council’s rejection of Parliament’s amendments to the 2020 EU annual budget. 
The European Commission proposed a draft budget for 2020 of €168.3 billion (US$189.7 billion). The Council’s position, which it adopted on September 3, 2019, decreased the budget to €166.8 billion (US$183.6 billion). The Council’s position, while a decrease from the proposal, still represents a slight increase of 0.6% from the 2019 budget. 
The parliament suggested amendments that would increase the total commitments to €171.0 billion (US$188.2 billion). The parliament sought to boost spending for climate protections, youth programs, SMEs, research, digitalization, migration, development, and humanitarian assistance. 
The Council refused to accept the Parliament’s amendments, which means that the Parliament and the Council must now bridge their differences on the budget by November 18, 2019. If an agreement is not reached by this deadline, the Commission will have to present a new draft budget for 2020. 

Press release - Council of the EU

Press release - European Parliament

Draft EU budget for 2020

Council position on 2020 EU budget - Council of the EU

Adopted text on 2020 EU budget - European Parliament


Most EU citizens believe tackling poverty through development assistance should be EU priority

The 2019 report on the annual Eurobarometer survey on EU development cooperation, published on October 23, 2019, shows that the majority of EU citizens believe that tackling poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU's main priorities. 

Key findings of the report include:

  • Nearly nine in ten EU citizens believe that it is important to help people in developing countries;
  • Seven in ten people believe that tackling poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU’s main priorities;
  • Nearly eight in ten people agree that tackling poverty in developing countries is also in the EU’s interest;
  • Seven in ten people believe that development assistance is an effective way to strengthen the EU’s influence in the world;
  • Three in four people agree that providing development assistance contributes to a fairer and more peaceful world;
  • More than two-thirds of people think that development assistance is an effective way to reduce inequalities in developing countries; and
  • Three in four people think the EU should strengthen its partnership with Africa and increase its financial investments in the continent to support sustainable development. 

The survey, conducted annually since 2009, is commissioned by the European Commission’s directorate-general for international cooperation and development (DG DEVCO) and follows the attitudes of Europeans towards development cooperation and its role in EU policy. Nearly 27,500 respondents of different social and demographic groups were surveyed. 
Press release - DG DEVCO

Report summary - Eurobarometer Survey 

Full report - Eurobarometer Survey


UK government outlines development assistance priorities to Parliament

At the parliamentary committee on international development, the UK secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, highlighted his government’s four broad priorities for development assistance:

  1. Tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity;
  2. Driving economic development;
  3. Supporting girls' education; and
  4. Ensuring an end to preventable deaths of mothers, babies, and children by 2030.

When pressed by the committee on what would be deprioritized, Sharma stated that no decisions had been made ahead of the government spending review and that with a growing development assistance budget, there may not be any cuts to other spending item areas needed. Sharma said ensuring that UK development assistance retains its primary objective of alleviating poverty and delivering value for money for British taxpayers is a priority.

Sharma gave reassurances to the committee that the government would maintain its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income on official development assistance. He also gave his personal support for maintaining an independent department for international development, noting that he had seen the high-standing and extensive influence of the department around the world.

On Brexit, Sharma noted that his department was already planning how the UK could deploy any additional funding as a result of a no-deal exit including expanding the UK's bilateral portfolio. Sharma was keen to stress that the government aims to maintain a constructive relationship with European partners.

Video - Secretary of State parliamentary evidence session

G20 health ministers adopt Okayama declaration on global health

The G20 Health Ministers officially adopted the Okayama Declaration on global health at a meeting in Okayama City on October 19- 20, 2019. 

The declaration is focused on achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, coordinated responses to global population aging, and the management of health risks including antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The meeting included heated discussion on how to extend healthy life expectancy, including early preventative measures. In addition, partner countries committed to work together to support the use of digital technology, and establish measures against AMR. 

News Release – Jiji Press (in Japanese)

Press release - Okayama Declaration of the G20 Health Ministers

Italy and the European Commission organize first humanitarian meeting on Libya

On October 20- 21, 2019, the Italian ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation co-organized with the European Commission's directorate-general for humanitarian aid and civil protection (ECHO) the first humanitarian meeting on Libya. The technical meeting will focus on the coordination of humanitarian assistance in the country.

Vice-minister of foreign affairs Emanuela del Re, in her opening speech, denounced the recent attack on civil infrastructures and called for respect for international humanitarian law to protect displaced civilians in the country. Del Re also decried the living condition of migrants in the detention centers in Libya, saying that the first priority for Italy is to replace the detention centers with facilities that respect the basic principles of law and judicial proceedings. 

Press release – Ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation

EU Italy

Passage of EU long-term budget stalls amid Brexit chaos and deep divisions amongst European leaders

On October 10, 2019, the newly elected European parliament affirmed the previous legislature’s positions on the 2021- 2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU’s next long-term budget, in an effort to avoid delaying the negotiation process at the European Council. The resolution supports an MFF of €1.32 billion (US$1.5 billion), representing 1.3% of the EU’s 27 member states’ gross national income (GNI) (excluding the UK), an increase from the current MFF’s proportion of the EU’s 28 member states (with the UK) of 1.03% GNI (1.11% including the off-budget European Development Fund), or €1.1 billion (US$1.3 billion).

However, heads of state failed to agree at the European Council summit on October 17-18, 2019, stalling the full passage of the budget. The summit was heavily dominated by discussions on Brexit and leaders abandoned their objective of reaching an MFF agreement by the end of the year. Instead, the summit concluded that the presidency should submit a revised ‘negotiating box’ (the negotiating document for the draft MFF legislation) by the end of 2019.
Member states remain divided on the size of the overall budget, how to prioritize spending areas, and whether to create new ‘own resources’, or sources of income for the EU. The more frugal countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, have been pushing for a smaller budget than that put forward by the European Commission’s proposal, and are advocating for permanent ‘rebates’, and the establishment of a link between EU funding and respect for the rule of law. Many countries in southern and Eastern Europe, such as Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain, favor a higher overall budget, at least at the level of the Commission’s proposal. Greece supports the Parliament’s position of a budget at 1.3% of GNI. 

The Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU has proposed a compromise budget size of 1.055% of the 27 EU member states’ GNI. This proposal would strike a middle ground between the European Commission’s (EC) proposal of 1.11% of the EU27’s GNI, and the position of the more frugal countries which are advocating for an overall budget of 1% of GNI. The deep divisions could mean a potential delay in reaching an agreement beyond the beginning of 2021.  
News article - Warsaw Business Journal

Resolution - European Parliament

Summit conclusions - European Council


EU’s health research partnership with Africa publishes 2018 annual report showing increased funding for poverty related diseases

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), the EU’s mechanism for funding research into new or improved medical interventions for poverty-related infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, published its 2018 annual report.

The report shows how the EDCTP2, the program which started in 2014, has doubled compared to EDCTP1 to reach a total of €447.15 million in grant funding provided so far. By the end of 2018, EDCTP2 has supported 230 African and 139 European institutions, with 192 proposals selected for funding and 148 of those projects already started. In comparison, EDCTP2 has supported 82 large-scale clinical trials totalling €395.83 million in funding.  
The European Commission is currently conducting a public consultation until November 6, 2019, on EDCTP2’s proposed successor program, the EU-Africa Global Health Partnership.
Annual report 2018 - EDCTP 

EU Global health R&D

New European Commission start date likely pushed back to December amid tumultuous confirmation process

The next European Commission’s start date will likely be pushed back from November 1, 2019, to December 1, 2019, at the earliest, as three commissioners-designate still need to be confirmed. The European Parliament rejected Romania’s nominee for the transport portfolio, Rovana Plumb, and Hungary’s nominee for enlargement, László Trócsányi, due to potential conflicts of interest. Most shockingly, however, parliament rejected France’s nominee for the internal market and defense portfolio, Sylvie Goulard, officially for ethical considerations. This has been widely viewed as retaliation against French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron for undermining the so-called ‘Spitzenkanditat’ system, which dictates that the lead candidate of the parliamentary party group with the most votes should receive the European Council’s nomination as Commission President-elect, but which was not followed in the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen.
Poland’s Janusz Wojciechowski, the nominee for Agriculture Commissioner, was also called back for a second hearing but passed that additional parliamentary hurdle. 
European Parliament President David Sassoli canceled the planned confirmation vote for the new college of commissioners until new commissioner-designates are selected and vetted for potential conflicts of interest and pass confirmation hearings with the relevant parliamentary committees. Pending this process, the new vote on the entire college of commissioners is likely to take place on November 25, 2019, to enable the college to take office on December 1, 2019. As of October 22, 2019, France has not yet named a replacement and Romania and Hungary have proposed new nominees, but von der Leyen has not yet accepted them.
News article - Politico


UK NGO Christian Aid closes offices as a result of Brexit

The UK charity, Christian Aid, has linked its decision to close a quarter of its country offices and cut back on programs partly to losses incurred as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

While the restructuring was part of a long-term plan, the charity noted that the cuts have been compounded by the falling value of the pound and general funding uncertainty as a result of Brexit.

News article - Devex

EU United Kingdom

Global Fund releases table showing total pledges by country

At its sixth replenishment conference in Lyon, France, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria raised a record-breaking US$14 billion in commitments from public and private donors, the largest amount of funding ever raised for a multilateral health organization. The Global Fund has since released a table showing the amounts pledged by each attendant.

Pledges at Global Fund Sixth Replenishment Conference - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria