Binding Aid Commitments from the EU?

At a time when many European Union member states are cutting foreign aid budgets, the EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs suggested a binding mechanism to enforce foreign assistance targets. EU members have committed to a soft target of 0.7% of their Gross National Income, but not all members are achieving that target. In a recent interview with Reuters, Piebalgs stated “”If member states cannot keep to the soft-target guidance, then we will think of a binding scheme that would enforce the 0.7 percent target. We need to find the way.”

The whole discussion is kind of absurd; theater around a meaningless number. 0.7 percent is a ridiculous paltry number. It’s a political calculation, not based on need at all. It was chosen because it was low enough that countries were willing to agree to it. Yet we still can’t do it. (The US, for the record is nowhere near .7% in its assistance.) So getting worked up around a specific fraction of a percent doesn’t make a lot of sense.

That being said, getting worked up about declining foreign aid at a time when the world needs it most is both necessary and important. Mandating foreign aid contributions is certainly an innovative response to the dilemma.

Innovative but not feasible – the EU doesn’t actually have the power to mandate foreign aid contributions from its member states. I suspect that Piebalgs knows this. He ends the interview with his hope that the AU can meet its foreign aid commitments through a financial transaction tax, which is a far cry from mandatory government contributions.   

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