Version classiqueVersion mobile

France, Europe and Development Aid. From the Treaties of Rome to the Present Day

 | 
Gérard Bossuat
, 
Gordon D. Cummings

Enlargements and New Aid Paradigms (1975-1995)

UK-European Community Aid Relations over the Lomé Years : Reciprocal Influences or a Dialogue de sourds?

Gordon D. Cumming

Texte intégral

  • 1 Stephen George, An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community, Oxford University Press, Oxf (...)
  • 2 Comments by UK Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, cited in The Independent, 16 February 1995

1Soon after joining the European Community (EC) in 1973, the United Kingdom came to be regarded by other member states as “an awkward partner”.1 The British felt particularly aggrieved that their voices were not being heard on issues such as the UK budget rebate and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). They complained in more measured tones about their lack of influence over the EC’s “haphazard” and “diffuse” aid programmes.2 Yet how justified was the UK in claiming that it did not enjoy, in the early decades after acceding to the EC, its fair share of influence over European development assistance?

  • 3 Carol Cosgrove Twitchett, Europe and Africa, Saxon House, Farnborough, p. 169.
  • 4 Adrian Hewitt, “Britain and the European Development Fund”, in Anuradha Bose and Peter Burnell (eds (...)
  • 5 Lynda Chalker, “The UK’s View of the Future of European Development Cooperation”, in Marjorie Liste (...)

2This is an important question that is not addressed in the literature. Only a handful of commentators touch upon Britain’s role in shaping European aid and most suggest that the UK had little or no influence. Cosgrove Twitchett argues that, during the negotiations on Lomé I (Europe’s first aid and trade agreement with former African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the UK was “temperamentally less interested in promoting an accommodation between her former colonies and the EEC than had been the case during the 1960s”, when Britain first applied to the EC.3 Hewitt also plays down British influence, suggesting that, despite a doubling of UK aid through the EC, Britain’s “levels of political clout were stagnating” between 1979 and 1990.4 A notable exception comes in the form of a thinkpiece by the then British Overseas Development Minister Lynda Chalker. Unsurprisingly perhaps, this offers a more positive assessment of the UK’s ability to shape European development policy. However, it also completely ignores the possibility that British aid policy was ever influenced by the European Commission.5

3The question of reciprocal influences is important as it can provide an original perspective on why the UK has retained a reputation for awkwardness on some European issues and not others. It is central to this chapter which draws on semi-structured interviews with key officials in the European Commission and the UK’s Overseas Development Administration (ODA). It begins by identifying instances where the European Commission exerted influence on UK aid. It then evaluates British influence on European development assistance over three time periods: 1973-1979 (Lomé I and the negotiations preceding it), 1980-89 (Lomé II and III) and 1990-1999 (Lomé IV). Next, it identifies the factors which enabled and constrained British influence. Finally, it asks whether Britain’s continued awkwardness in Europe might be traced back to its early experiences of European development assistance.

4Before proceeding, it is worth noting the following caveats. First, the terms European Community and European Union are used respectively to refer to the pre- and post-1992 periods. Second, the emphasis is on reciprocal influences involving the UK and European Commission rather than Britain and individual member states. Third, the focus is on European development assistance, as opposed to humanitarian aid or trade preferences. Finally, it should be noted that influence is hard to prove in the context of European aid where decisions are usually made behind closed doors.

Winning Over the British?

  • 6 Lotte Drieghe and Jan Orbie “Revolution in Times of Eurosclerosis”, L’Europe en formation, No 353-3 (...)
  • 7 Adrian Hewitt and Kaye Whiteman, “The Commission and Development Policy” in Karin Arts and Anna Dic (...)
  • 8 The Guardian, 23 February 2002.

5Notwithstanding the above, it is possible to identify several ways in which the European Commission held sway over UK aid in these years. First of all, the Commission helped pave the way for Britain and its Commonwealth to enter into the Lomé agreement. It did so through the work of key policy-makers and through policy memorandums. Two of the Commission’s most influential figures were, as from 1973, the Development Commissioner, Claude Cheysson, and Deputy Director-General of the Development Directorate (DG VIII), Maurice Foley. Cheysson was a progressive and imaginative negotiator, who was instrumental in breaking the deadlock between francophone states, which sought to maintain reciprocal trade preferences, and the anglophone bloc, which wanted non-reciprocity.6 For his role in facilitating Commonwealth accession to Lomé, this French politician was described by Hewitt and Whiteman as French President Pompidou’s “gift to the British”.7 As for Foley, this former UK Foreign Office Minister and trade unionist used his personal links with anglophone Africa leaders to allay both their suspicions of a francophone-led European Commission and their concerns over the loss of Commonwealth preferences. He also played a decisive role in bringing Caribbean and Pacific nations into Lomé and in ensuring they did not become “the orphans of Britain’s rush into Europe”.8

  • 9 European Commission, “Mémorandum de la Commission sur une politique communautaire de coopération au (...)
  • 10 Dieter Frisch, La politique de développement de l’Union européenne, ECPDM, Maastricht, 1998, p. 8
  • 11 European Commission, Mémorandum sur une politique communautaire de développement, DG Relations Exté (...)
  • 12 European Commission,“Memorandum of the Commission to the Council on the Future Relations between th (...)

6Turning to policy memorandums, the Commission used these documents to frame the debate over the content of Lomé I and the terms of Britain’s accession to it. In its 1971 memorandum to the Council of Ministers,9 the Commission stressed that the Yaoundé Convention no longer corresponded to the developmental ambitions of the EC and that there was a need to extend the policy of association and trade cooperation to other developing countries. In so doing, the Commission prepared the ground for the October 1972 summit in Paris, which brought together member and accession states and which resolved much of the disagreement between those states, led by France, favouring a regional approach, and those, such as Germany and Holland, seeking a global development policy.10 In its 1972 memorandum, the Commission stressed that, while the advantages of association should be preserved,11 European assistance should be extended beyond former colonies. Then, in 1973, the Commission produced a memorandum which recommended opening up the advantages of Yaoundé and undertaking negotiations with the 20 Commonwealth countries (subsequently extended to 22) listed on the protocol attached to UK Accession Treaty.12

  • 13 Interview with Dieter Frisch, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General VII (...)
  • 14 Idem. This framework came into being with the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which imposed a legal obligat (...)
  • 15 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF, op. cit., p. 86. This overall rise was, however, not a matter of c (...)

7In facilitating the UK’s accession to Lomé, the Commisssion also helped to ensure that Britain accepted the implications of joining the European club. In particular, it secured the UK’s acquiesence in the fact that the Commission was, de facto if not de jure, “in the lead on initiatives”13. Over time, the Commission even persuaded the UK and other member states to go along with the need for “a common policy framework which would be politically binding not only on the Commission but also on member countries”.14 Importantly too, the Commission was able to ensure that Britain, right up until the mid-1990s, increased its contributions to successive European Development Funds (EDF) and hence to ACP countries under successive Lomé Conventions (see Table 1). The Commission also engineered over many years major increases in the EC aid budget as a whole and saw total British aid to the EC increase from 6 per cent in 1978 to 12 per cent in 1979 and nearly 20 per cent in 1990.15

Table 1. European Development Fund: Signatories and Key Contributors 1959-2000

Signatories EC ACP

France

FRG

UK

EC/ EU Total

EDF 1 1959-64 (Rome Treaty Association)

6

18

34.4%

34.4%

-

100 % (581 m ECU)

EDF 2 1964-70(Yaoundé I)

6

18

33.8%

33.8%

-

100% (730 m ECU)

EDF 3 1970-75 (Yaoundé II)

6

19

33.2%

33.2%

-

100% (900 m ECU)

EDF 4 1975-80 (Lomé I)

9

46

26.0 %

26.0%

18.7%

100 % (3.1 bn ECU)

EDF 5 1980-85 (Lomé II)

10

57

25.6%

28.3 %

18.0%

100% (4.7 bn ECU)

EDF 6 1985-90 (Lomé III)

12

66

23.6%

26.1%

16.6%

100 % (7.4 bn ECU)

EDF 7 1990-95 (Lomé IV)

12

69

24.3%

25.9%

16.4%

100% (10.8 bn ECU)

EDF 8 1995-2000

(Lomé IV)

15

70

24.3%

23.4%

12.7%

100 (13.0 bn ECU)

Sources: C. Cosgrove Twitchett, Europe and Africa …, op. cit., p. 118, p. 143, p. 169; Development Assistance Committee, European Community, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Paris, 1998, p. 86; Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Lomé II, Briefing paper, No. 1, February 1980, p. 6; Charlotte Bretherton and John Vogler, The European Union as a Global Actor, Routledge, London, 2006, p. 116. Contributions are quoted in millions or billions of European Currency Units (ECU), the accounting units used for the Community’s internal budget.

  • 16 A. Hewitt and K. Whiteman, “The Commission …”, op. cit., p. 142.
  • 17 K. Arts and A. Dickson, EU Development, op. cit., pp. 142-43.
  • 18 Interview with M. Lake, Brussels, 2011.

8The Commission could equally claim to have had an impact on UK development policy. Spurred on by Maurice Foley and with support from the EEC-ACP Parliamentary Association, the Commission pushed for the creation of a Southern African Development Community and for a radicalisation of Europe’s policy towards southern Africa.16 In so doing, it kept up pressure, during the 1970s and 1980s, on UK governments to take a robust stance towards the white minority regime in South Africa.17 It also played a key role in the early 1990s in coordinating the positions of the UK and other member states on political conditionality, a controversial policy of linking aid to political reform in developing countries. The fact that Europe’s humanitarian arm, ECHO, ruled out any suspension of emergency assistance, also facilitated the halting of development aid, as the UK and other bilateral donors knew that humanitarian assistance would continue to flow to those most in need.18

  • 19 Interview with P. Pooley, Aylesbury, 2011.

9Finally, the Commission enjoyed influence through information exchanges. It had knowledge, expertise and contacts to offer, notably in parts of the world such as francophone Africa where Britain was under-represented and had little local knowledge. According to a former Acting Director of DGVIII, Peter Pooley, the British “did accept they might have something to learn from the Commission outside their own sphere of influence”.19 Michael Lake, former Head of the European Commission Delegation in South Africa, echoed this view, noting how “in francophone African countries, the UK Ambassador was the Commission’s best friend”, as he or she would be looking for ways of tapping into “the EC’s wide network of ministerial and other contacts”.

10To sum up, the Commission had influence where it had something to offer (such as information, networks), where Britain was in a weaker position (as at the moment of accession) or where the UK preferred not to go it alone (as with aid sanctions). In line with institutionalist and path-dependency thinking, the Commission’s influence increased over time as it grew in self confidence, became more resilient as a policy entrepreneur and refused to act as a repository for the aid policies of any one dominant member state.

  • 20 L. Drieghe and J. Orbie, “Revolution …”, op. cit., p. 173 and p. 179.
  • 21 K. Arts and A. Dickson, EU Development …, op. cit., p. 125.

11Against this, some commentators question the degree of Commission influence. Lottie and Orbie argue that, in the case of Lomé I, France and the UK “largely shaped the content and nature of the agreement through intergovernmental bargaining”, while the Commission failed to pursue “an agenda of its own” and only played “a more important role in the subsequent Lomé Conventions and in the recent Cotonou Agreement”.20 In a similar inter-governmentalist vein, Crawford shows how, at the time of the 1995 Mid-Term Review (MTR) of Lomé, the UK drew a line in the sand regarding its aid contribution. Karin and Dickson likewise suggest that Britain, together with other member states, was instrumental in keeping the EDF outside of the rapidly expanding European Community budget, thereby ensuring that Lomé funding was the subject of inter-governmental bargaining every five years.21

  • 22 Interview D. Frisch, 2011.
  • 23 Interview, P. Pooley, 2011.
  • 24 Interview with Tom Glaser, ex-Head of EU Representation in Budapest, Cardiff, 2011.

12Commission officials interviewed for this study were also wary of claiming influence. As Dieter Frisch admitted, “it was certainly more the member countries that tried to influence what the Community did than the other way round”.22 Peter Pooley was even more cautious, noting that where the British had “unparalled networks”, in places like “East Africa and in the Caribbean, they thought that they knew how to do things and nobody else did, not only the Commission but anyone else”.23 It was certainly the case, moreover, that UK politicians in Parliamentary debates, gave little indication that they were listening to the Commission. They criticised the EC aid for being slow, ineffective, poorly controlled and evaluated. They also viewed it as overly bureaucratic, formulaic, over-concentrated on contractual questions rather than substance. For British policy-makers, the Lomé did not, as promised in its preamble, lay down “a model of relations between developed and developing states”. Instead, the UK looked for ideas on overseas development to the US-led World Bank and the OECD.24

Britain’s Influence on the Commission

13Turning to UK influence, this will as noted earlier, be examined in three periods.

Phase I: 1973-79

  • 25 Interview, D. Frisch, 2011.
  • 26 Idem.

14The first chapter (1973-79) corresponds to the negotiating phase through to the end of the first Lomé Convention, signed by nine European member states and 46 ACP countries. Claude Cheysson was EC Development Commissioner (1973-1981) and a Labour government (Harold Wilson 1974-76, James Callaghan, 1976-79) was in power. The crucial way in which the UK exerted influence was in providing the opportunity for the expansion of the Yaoundé Convention into a much broader framework. Prior to Lomé I, Europe was divided over the future of Yaoundé. France, with francophone African backing, was pushing for the continuation of a regional policy of association, whereas “the view of a number of key member states, notably Germany and Holland was that Yaoundé could not be continued in its existing form and should be replaced” by a global approach.25 Though wary of a diffuse approach that would spread Europe’s then limited aid budget too thinly, the Commission did want a convention that was commensurate with Europe’s growing size and ambitions. It was seeking a new approach, and the UK’s entry opened the door to a more dynamic partnership. According to Dieter Frisch, the trebling of the size of the financial envelope between Yaoundé II and Lomé I (see Table 1) would not have been possible without Britain’s entry. With all the push we could have produced, with the support of the Germans, the Dutch … it would not have sufficed. So the fact that Britain joined … certainly helped us enormously to open up to Lomé. I don’t think that Lomé would have been what it became without British entry.26

  • 27 Isebill Gruhn,“The Lomé Convention: Inching Towards Interdependence”, International Organization, v (...)
  • 28 Idem.

15It was also thanks to the UK’s accession to the EC that so many Commonwealth countries were able to sign up to Lomé. In so doing, they changed permanently the dynamics of ACP-EC negotiations. Anglophone African countries brought a “more forthright … political outlook”, with Nigeria in particular contributing“political and technical skill as well as impetus for united action”.27 The six Caribbean Commonwealth countries provided a “dynamic … team of experienced negotiators [whose] … tactics proved to be an eye-opener, especially for the more deferential francophone Africans”.28 The new members built upon the Yaoundé Associates’ familiarity with EC bureaucracy and helped forge united positions, particularly after the ACP formally constituted itself via the Georgetown Agreement of June 1975.

16Crucially too, the UK’s application to the EC paved the way for substantive changes to the original Yaoundé Convention. One such shift was the move away from reciprocal to non-reciprocal preferences, as Commonwealth countries, with the backing of Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and eventually Germany, rejected the francophone bloc’s demand that reciprocal preferences be maintained. Another innovation was the introduction by the Commission of Stabex, a European system for stabilising export earnings from agricultural commodities, which was introduced largely in response to the concerns of Commonwealth sugar producers.

  • 29 Interview, P. Pooley.

17At the operational level too, the UK enjoyed some influence over European development assistance. This was particularly true in the field in former colonies where British officials were “present in greater numbers” and where the UK was often “the lead country”, as in Kenya.29

  • 30 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 89.
  • 31 In the interest of UK consumers, Britain called for lower sugar prices while proclaiming its commit (...)
  • 32 Cited in Frisch, La politique de développement, op. cit., p. 12.
  • 33 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 88.

18Overall, however, it would be wrong to overstate Britain’s role in shaping Lomé I. As Hewitt suggests, the improvement in the terms of Lomé over Yaoundé “was at least as much a result of hard bargaining by ACP countries – notably Jamaica, Guyana and Nigeria, supported by the power which they derived from temporary world commodity shortages (petroleum and sugar particularly) – as of British patronage and far sightedness”.30 Cosgrove Twitchett notes, moreover, that “the Lomé negotiations took place while the UK was in the throes of renegotiation and the ensuing referendum debate on whether she should herself remain a member of the EC”. It was against this backdrop and in a context of domestic economic woes that the UK argued only half-heartedly for the inclusion in Lomé of the Asian Commonwealth, adopted a confused negotiating stance on sugar import prices and failed to match the French or German contribution to the Convention.31 Britain could not even claim to have had held sway over the thinking behind the new Convention. Its real architect was Cheysson, a skilled statesman and former French diplomat with a background on African issues, who moved Europe away from its earlier “benevolent paternalism” and encouraged greater ownership, telling the ACP “It’s your money. … We are here to provide technical advice if you need it”.32 It follows that upon signing up to Lomé, “Britain found a set of policies, established positions and sitting tenants in positions of power (at both the delivering and receiving ends of the aid process) with which it had little sympathy”.33

Phase II: 1980-1989

19This second period focuses on Lomé II (1980-85) and Lomé III (1985-90). It also corresponds roughly to the time in office of Development Commisioners Edgard Pisani (1981-85) and Lorenzo Natali (1985-91) as well as the premiership of UK Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979-90).

  • 34 Interview, D. Frisch.
  • 35 David Wall, “Britain, the EEC and the Third World”, in Roy Jenkins (ed), Britain and the EEC, Macmi (...)
  • 36 Christopher Erswell, UK Aid Policy and Practice 1974-90, Universal-Publishers, Florida, 2001, p. 66

20Despite their anti-Brussels rhetoric, successive Thatcher governments played a broadly positive role towards the Lomé Convention. As Dieter Frisch told the author, “the choice the British made … was that if they had to accept that Brussels now managed more and more money, the best thing was to influence that as much as possible in a positive sense. They were not slowing it down or blocking it or creating problems”.34 In line with this logic, the UK went along with a further significant rise in the EDF financial envelope: from 3.1 billion ECU for Lomé I to 7.4 billion ECU for Lomé III (see Table 1). The British remained engaged and began planting ideas that would later come to fruition. To illustrate, the UK’s Labour Foreign Secretary, David Owen, suggested during the Lomé II negotiations that the benefits of this Convention be conditional upon respect for human rights in recipient countries.35 Another issue on which the UK began voicing concern was the need to improve the effectiveness of European aid by making it less project-focused and more tied to World Bank structural adjustment reforms. Britain also pushed for tighter controls to ensure that Stabex should be used for its intended purpose, namely compensating peasant farmers for commodity price drops. A UK White Paper even concluded that the EC should disband Stabex and contribute instead to the global compensatory scheme run by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).36

  • 37 D. Frisch, La politique de développement, op. cit., p. 20.
  • 38 Hassan Selim, Development Assistance Policies and the Performance of Aid Agencies, Macmillan, Hound (...)

21The above ideas did not, however, bear fruit in the early 1980s. While the UK enjoyed support from the Dutch and, as from 1983 the European Parliament, for human rights conditionality, this idea was sidelined in Lomé II due to determined protests by the ACP and opposition from some EC member states which wanted the Convention to remain “politically neutral”.37 Britain’s demands for greater aid effectiveness also made little headway. Indeed, Lomé II continued to focus almost entirely on projects, eschewed World Bank style economic programmes, extended Stabex to more than ten new products and actually set up a parallel scheme for mineral price support, Sysmin.38

  • 39 Baroness Young, House of Lords Debate, 1 July 1985, vol. 465, col. 1008.

22It was not until Lomé III that a number of these UK-backed ideas found their way into the EC’s approach to aid. Lomé III picked up on British demands on human rights and wrote this concept into the texts that formed “part of the Lomé contract” and that might “therefore be invoked in the most flagrant cases in which elementary human rights are abused”.39 Lomé III also reflected Britain’s growing concern over aid effectiveness. Thus, “policy dialogue” was introduced as a way of moving away from a project-oriented to a programme-based approach involving mutual commitments by the EC and ACP in sectors where ACP countries had already agreed a structural or sectoral adjustment loan with the World Bank.

  • 40 Interview with ex-official, Aid Policy Department, ODA, 2011.

23The UK’s efforts to improve the efficiency of EC aid were not of course confined to the EDF framework. Thus, Britain in the mid-1980s lobbied for reform of EC emergency food aid and UK Development Minister Chris Patten was quick to claim the credit for “pushing the Commission away from classic short-term emergency aid towards making emergency aid a developmental instrument”.40

  • 41 European Commission, “Memorandum on the Community’s Development Policy”, 15 Bull. EC suppl. 5, 1982
  • 42 Interview, M. Lake.
  • 43 Idem.

24It would, however, be mistaken to overstate the UK’s influence on Lomé III. The fact is that the shift towards policy dialogue was largely the brainchild of French Development Commissioner, Edgard Pisani, whose 1982 memorandum stressed the need to move away from Cheysson’s earlier logic and introduce a mature approach to EC-ACP discussions.41 The UK had little input here. Indeed, “the British, in the Council of Ministers, found it difficult to know why the Commission was attaching so much importance to it. It wasn’t part of Lomé which was cut and dried”.42 In addition, Britain’s success in pushing for closer linkages between EC aid and World Bank neoliberal programmes was at best partial. Thus, while the Commission did eventually sign up to the adjustment process and set up a structural adjustment facility (SAF) in 1987, it also sought to remain the compagnon de route of the developing world and rejected the hard-line stance on economic reform pushed by the UK. Finally, even the British government’s claims that it brought about changes to European food aid policies have to be qualified given that the Commission had already begun work on these reforms before Chris Pattenspoke out on this issue.43

Phase III: 1990-2000

  • 44 Ann Clywd, House of Commons Hansard Debates, 20 December 1989, Column 937.
  • 45 European Report, 13 June 1990.
  • 46 Interview with Ian Boag, Former Head of four Commission delegations, Brussels, 2011.
  • 47 Interview, D. Frisch.
  • 48 Baroness Chalker, House of Lords Debate,13 December 1993,vol. 550, col. 1169.
  • 49 Lynda Chalker, “The UK’s View ...”, op. cit., p. 1.

25This phase covers Lomé IV, the first ten year Convention. During the first tranche and the MTR for the second, Manuel Marin was EC Development Commissioner (1989-95) and John Major was UK Prime Minister (1990-97). In the early 1990s, the UK remained constructive, approving an overall increase in the EDF budget of 12 million ECU (two million more than the British government had wanted)44 and accepting a rise in Stabex funding (to ECU 1.5 billion), despite “British distate for a fund that stabilises export earnings without encouraging diversification”.45 The UK also adopted a “helpful” approach in the field, where they “tried to get things to work efficiently”, providing instant funding for feasability studies and thereby “giving the Commission time to get its paperwork in order”.46 In Brussels too, Britain acted in “a positive fashion” by seconding specialists on education and forestry, where the Commission lacked expertise.47 The British, equally, offered advice to the Commission on aid evaluation and planning methods, thereby facilitating the introduction of an integrated approach to project cycle management (which uses the logical framework), a project information control system, an expansion of the Commission’s Evaluation Department, and the launch of joint evaluations of EC aid programmes to ACP and non-ACP countries.48 At the same time, the UK continued pushing for tighter aid coordination in the field and led the way by sponsoring the Horizon 2000 pilot scheme during its 1992 Presidency of the EC.49

26By adopting a positive approach, the UK was better able to push one of its longstanding concerns, human rights conditionality, which was approved by the European Council in a Resolution in May 1991. The British government also managed to move the EC a step closer to accepting World Bank programmes. As Hewitt makes clear :

  • 50 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 92.

It was only … with … the fourth Lomé Convention …, that the EC conceded that structural adjustment policy reform obligations were a reality. The Commission belatedly recognised that it could not continue to operate a project aid system which allowed governments to bypass reform conditions which were being imposed by the EC member states’ own governments.50

  • 51 Antonique Koning, “The European Commission” in Aidan Cox, John Healey and Antonique Koning (eds), H (...)

27The UK encouraged the Commission down this road by seconding an economist to DG VIII to advise on structural adjustment. Britain also welcomed the Commission’s decision to increase staff in the unit dealing with the SAF to 12 economists and to expand the value of this quick disbursing facility from 2.8 per cent of programmable aid in 1991 to over 25 per cent in 1994.51

  • 52 Interview, M. Lake.

28Again, however, it would be misleading to exaggerate British influence. Thus, while the UK’s provision of specialist expertise did give it a voice “on the inside”, any actual influence on the Commission was curtailed by the frequency of complaints from other member states about the irregularity of such secondments. Furthermore, the UK never fully persuaded the Commission of the merits of structural adjustment. Thus, while the British had called for a major shift towards SAF funding, they ended up accepting a compromise whereby a special fund was set aside for recipients pursuing structural adjustment programmes whilst other ACP states continued to benefit from pre-allocated programmable aid under National Indicative Plans. In other words, the Commission refused “to go the way that the British wanted which was to be in the forefront of conditionality”.52

  • 53 ODI, EU Aid Post-Maastricht, ODI, London, p. 2.
  • 54 Lynda Chalker, “Britain’s Role in the Multilateral Aid Agencies”, speech to the ODI, 16 May 1990.
  • 55 Interview, P. Pooley.
  • 56 Idem.
  • 57 Idem.

29The UK’s negotiating position began hardening as early as the 1992 Edinburgh summit when the EC pledged to increase by 60 per cent over the next seven years its spending on external action, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.53 Given the decline in the UK’s own aid budget, the British became alarmed at the squeeze that EC contributions were imposing on bilateral assistance. They complained that the EC was “being given resources …by the European Parliament” which outran “the Commission’s own capacity for effective administration”.54 They demanded to know “whether the Commission was spending the money efficiently or not”.55 They felt this particularly strongly in the early 1990s since “the exchange rate of the pound was going down and the contributions that had to be made … in terms of pounds sterling ..[were] costing the ODA more”.56 Furthermore, the ODA was “not in a strong position domestically, as it was not a Department. Lynda Chalker was not a member of the Cabinet but a Foreign Office minister, and the developers … were not well funded and were looked down on by the diplomats”.57

  • 58 Gordon Crawford , “Whither Lomé? The Mid-Term Review”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 , (...)
  • 59 La Lettre Afrique Expansion, No 392, 27 February 1995.
  • 60 Agri Service International Newsletter, 13 April 1995.
  • 61 Karin Arts and Jessica Byron, “The mid-term review of the Lome IV Convention”, Third World Quarterl (...)

30Against this backdrop, the UK argued for a 30 per cent reduction in its EDF contribution. In fact, “The British Government was the most intransigent during the deadlock and succeeded in reducing its contribution in real and nominal terms”.58 The UK emphasised its preference for bilateral assistance and for trade over aid.59 It secured some backing from Holland, Italy and Germany, itself under pressure from the cost of reunification.60 The impact of this UK stand (which led to a fall in its contribution by eight per cent) was to reinforce the sentiment within the Commission that there would be no future Lomé-style Convention.61 The adoption of a two-tranche system for payments after the MTR signalled the shift away from equal partnership towards greater control by EU member states. The Green Paper, initiated in 1996 under Development Commissioner João de Deus Pinheiro (1995-99), also paved the way for negotations (1998-2000) on a new convention, the Cotonou agreement, that was supposed to address Lomé’s shortcomings.

  • 62 K. Arts and J. Byron, “The mid-term review …”, op. cit., p. 76.

31All the same, it should not be thought that the UK’s growing inflexibility in these years bought it greater influence over European aid. Needless to say, member states such as France, which held the presidency during the crucial phase of the MTR, and Germany, as the economic power-house of the EC, played a crucial role. The Commission was also influential, particularly through the “personality and thinking” of Commissioner Marin, who framed discussions by widely circulating in 1993 a draft negotiating brief that included proposals on the “democracy clause” and aid suspension mechanisms, the introduction of performance-related tranching of aid, and the reservation of special allocations for financing EC priority programmes.62

Enabling Factors

32So what were the factors that facilitated UK influence over EC aid? Contextual factors were clearly important, not least the opportune timing of UK’s accession to the EC, just as the Yaoundé Convention was running out of steam. The end of the Cold War also opened up opportunities for fresh donor thinking on emerging themes such as the environment, where the UK was relatively advanced in its thinking. The end of apartheid and the resignation of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 also untied the hands of UK policy-makers, hitherto forced to softpedal on sanctions against Pretoria, and allowed them to press more vociferously for a stronger linkage in Lomé IV between aid and respect for human rights.

  • 63 Interview, M. Lake.
  • 64 Interview, D. Frisch.
  • 65 The Guardian, 22 February 2002.
  • 66 As EC External Affairs Commissioner (1999-2004), Patten was instrumental in pushing DGVIII to work (...)

33Another enabling factor was the quality of Britain’s foreign policy administration. Despite the Eurosceptic rhetoric of many UK Ministers, FCO officials in London and Brussels were always professional in Lomé negotiations, while the ODA was frequently interested in cooperation at the operational level.63 The UK’s foreign policy machinery contained gifted individuals, such as Charles Powell, a Counsellor to UKREP Brussels (1980-83), and Tim Lankester, ODA Permanent Secretary in London (1989-94). Britain’s apparatus was more coherent than the hydra-headed French administration, whose influence declined partly as a result over the Lomé years.64 Within the Commission too, there were figures who helped the UK cause, not least Maurice Foley and Kaye Whiteman, who were said by the latter to have been “charged – unofficially – with selling British influence in a relationship with Africa that had been French-dominated”.65 UK Development Ministers such as Timothy Raison and Chris Patten also enjoyed “a really positive partnership” with Dieter Frisch as DG VIII Director, while Lynda Chalker got on well both with Frisch and Acting DG VIII Director, Peter Pooley.66 It was in fact thanks to these good relations that Frisch was twice invited to address the UK Foreign Policy Select Committee, an opportunity for an exchange of views that was not afforded by other member states.

  • 67 Idem

34Historical linkages also facilitated UK influence, not least the fact that Britain had prior experience in, and an ongoing relationship with, a large proportion of the membership of the ACP. The UK, thanks to its “decentralised management system”, was “better represented” in the field than most other member states.67 The British were as such better placed to shape and coordinate donor activities. Other factors that enhanced UK influence were more coincidental. Thus, the British were swift to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by UK presidencies of the EC to push agendas such as food aid regulation and donor coordination. British officials were also quick to build temporary alliances, lobbying with the Dutch on the need to link EC aid to repect for human rights, and, with the Germans on the size of the Lomé IV budget for 1995-2000. Britain benefited, moreover, from the fact that EC development assistance was not dominated by the Franco-German tandem or any other cluster of member states.

Constraints on Influence

  • 68 Interview, T. Glaser.
  • 69 Interview, P. Pooley.

35Given the above, it is perhaps surprising that the UK did not hold more sway over the direction of European aid. The reality was, however, that there were also major constraints on British influence. The first was structural. The UK was late in joining “a club that was already working” and where the approach (e.g., dirigiste planning and price support mechanisms) was not of the UK’s choosing.68 As Peter Pooley pointed out, “That was the structure and it was very difficult to change”.69

  • 70 Interview, T. Glaser.
  • 71 Interview, senior Commission official, Brussels, 2011.
  • 72 Interview, M. Lake.

36A related constraint was the fact that the UK was not a particularly big hitter on overseas development issues over the Lomé years. Indeed, for most of this period, the British aid programme was run by an “administration” rather than a Ministry and its budget was shrinking. The UK was, moreover, only ever one of between nine and 15 EC member states, each of which could “push its own priorities in the Council of Development Ministers if they really felt strongly about something”.70 Britain was moreover never sure of winning the Commission over to its cause, given that the latter was much “less bewitched by the Foreign Office than UK Ministers”.71 In fact, the Commission had grown in self-confidence from the time of its leadership in the 1973 UNCTAD negotations to become “a substantial institutional presence on the development scene”.72 According to Dieter Frisch, by the mid-1970s the Commission was “very much in the driving seat …and the member countries could not push us around. We were now as professional as the others. We knew what to propose and we succeeded in pushing member states towards higher and higher levels of aid”. Against this backdrop, European Commissioners did not need British advice. This was particularly true of Cheysson, a gifted negotiator with an African diplomatic background, and Pisani, the grand penseur of the French socialist party.

  • 73 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 94.
  • 74 C. Cosgrove Twitchett, Europe and Africa, op. cit., p. 136.

37Lack of popularity further constrained British influence. The UK was seen to be a semi-detached member of the Community and was deemed to be “taking a high profile on the Brussels aid scene only when national commercial interests were at stake”. This perception limited Britain’s capacity “to persuade its EC partners of the very real need to reform the EDF”.73 The absence of any long-term alliances with other member state further hampered the UK’s ability to harness the méthode communautaire to its own ends. So too did poor relations with the Commonwealth, particularly in the 1980s when Mrs Thatcher’s government baulked at imposing meaningful sanctions on apartheid South Africa and helped keep “political questions over southern Africa” off “the official Lomé ministerial dialogue”.74

  • 75 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 87.
  • 76 The UK Labour Minister Judith Hart in the mid-1970s was the first to suggest this aid split between (...)
  • 77 Interview, M. Lake.
  • 78 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 90.

38Ideological diffferences were also important. Hewitt has argued that the UK was often “out of sync” with the EC, proposing ideas,75 such as aid evaluation and an equal distribution of aid between ACP and non-ACP states, that were only adopted years later.76 This lack of synchronicity should not, however, disguise deep-seated ideological differences between the UK and much of the EC, particularly in the 1980s when Britain signed up to World Bank structural adjustment programmes. As one former Commission official put it, “We were deeply at odds with the World Bank in these years because we were francophone”.77 Hewitt makes a similar point, noting that “In the aid field there was nothing more likely to annoy the dominant French interests in EC development policy than to side with the Washington-based … World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, on matters concerning Africa …”.78

  • 79 Interview, T. Glaser.
  • 80 Idem.

39Ultimately, the explanation for the UK’s relative lack of influence lies in Britain’s own choices and priorities within Europe. To illustrate, the British did not lobby for key positions within DG VIII. Instead, they “pretended this did not matter as long as aid programmes were being run effectively” and, in so doing, they lost control of the “commanding heights”.79This “lack of influence at the top” was later compounded when the UK halted, albeit temporarily, recruitment via the European fast stream.80 This latter decision inevitably reduced the flow of British nationals working their way up to the top of (rather than being teleported into senior positions within) the Commission’s hierarchy.

  • 81 A Hewitt and K. Whiteman, EU Development Cooperation, op. cit., p. 143.
  • 82 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 95.
  • 83 Geoffrey Howe, “The Future of the European Community”, International Affairs, vol. 60, No. 2, 1984, (...)
  • 84 Interview, D. Frisch.
  • 85 When the UK began competing successfully for contracts in Eastern Europe, the Commission imposed a (...)

40As regards the UK’s priorities, these did not lie with DG VIII, the EDF or overseas development but with DG Trade, the CAP and the single European market.81 In the early 1990s, a key focus was on the commercial opportunities opening up in Eastern Europe and the UK attached “more importance to starting the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (which would be sited in London) on a businesslike footing than overhauling the EDF”.82 The British were ultimately being pragmatic. They knew that they could not overhaul the EDF so they became “diffident as a new member”.83 They also foresaw the upward trend in EC assistance and “instead of slowing it down, they decided to join the movement and influence it”.84 With their residual responsibility for the Commonwealth, a stagnant development assistance budget and a huge EC aid envelope on offer to many of their former colonies, the British recognised that it was not in their interests to rock the boat. They also realised that Britain stood to benefit from lucrative EC aid contracts.85 Indeed, the UK’s overall share of these contracts rose from 10.5 per cent in 1975 to 15.3 per cent (higher than any other member state) in 1988, with the UK performing particularly well on supplies and technical assistance (see Table 2).

Table 2. EDF Contracts in Millions of ECU by Nationality of Firm as at 31 December 1988

EDF 4

Nationality of Firms

Works

%

Supplies

%

Technical Assistance

%

Total

%

Germany

91.7

7.2

101.7

18.6

87.4

21.4

280.7

12.6

France

287.3

22.6

129.7

23.7

75.8

18.5

492.8

22.1

Italy

140.7

11.1

76.1

13.9

49.6

12.1

266.4

12.0

UK

56.0

4.4

112.6

20.6

63.6

15.6

232.3

10.5

EC Total

1270.2

100

547.6

100

409.0

100

226.8

100

EDF 5

Germany

86.6

7.9

121.3

18.8

103.3

22.2

311.1

14.1

France

248.3

22.6

128.0

19.8

93.2

20.0

469.5

21.2

Italy

102.1

9.3

66.2

10.2

45.2

9.7

213.5

9.7

UK

84.7

7.7

155.9

24.1

74.7

16.1

315.3

14.3

EC Total

1099.5

100

646.3

100

465.6

100

2211.3

100

EDF 6

Germany

14.8

10.1

2.6

3.9

22.5

12.8

39.9

10.2

France

2.0

1.4

14.1

20.9

24.8

14.1

40.8

10.5

Italy

38.2

26.1

2.3

3.5

17.9

10.2

58.4

15.0

UK

12.5

8.5

13.8

20.6

33.4

19.0

59.7

15.3

EC Total

146.6

100

67.2

100

175.2

100

389.1

100

Source: DG VIII, Lomé III: Mid-Term Review 1986-88, SEC (89) 1539, Brussels, 1989, p.33.

Conclusion

  • 86 Interview, M. Lake.
  • 87 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 92.

41This chapter has focused on reciprocal UK and EC influences over the Lomé years. It has shown how the European Commission held sway over British aid policy but only where it enjoyed a comparative advantage, whether through its operational networks or its role as a policy coordinator. The Commission’s influence undoubtedly increased over time as it grew in self-confidence and began pushing for greater policy coherence, most notably via the Maastricht Treaty. The UK for its part was influential in helping to frame the first Lomé Convention, in pushing new aid evaluation procedures and in lobbying for human rights conditionality. As a rule, Britain enjoyed more influence where it had other member states on board and where it was “on the same page as the Commission”.86 The British were less persuasive where their arguments were not believed (the mantra “trade not aid” was viewed as an excuse to give less aid) and where they were ideologically isolated (as with structural adjustment).87

  • 88 Interview, D. Frisch.

42So clearly there were reciprocal influences and there was not a dialogue de sourds between the UK and the European Commission. While the British did sometimes have to shout long and hard in order to be heard, they were not losing out on the European aid scene, as their rhetoric on the “stitching up” of contracts and the Commission’s lack of responsiveness sometimes suggested. As Dieter Frisch put it, “We should distinguish [foreign policy] from an area like development cooperation [where] … the British had an interest in playing the game”.88 It follows that the UK’s status as an awkward partner cannot be traced back to its early experiences of European aid. The roots of Britain’s semi-detached attitude towards Europe must lie elsewhere, probably in trade, agriculture and socio-judicial questions that infringe UK sovereignty.

  • 89 The so-called Utstein Group later evolved into the Nordic Plus group of like-minded donors.
  • 90 DFID, Eliminating World Poverty, DFID, London, 1997, p. 20.

43The election of a Labour government in 1997 did not lead to any dramatic change in the UK’s broadly constructive stance on European aid. Thus, while Clare Short as Secretary of State for International Development was scathing about the wastefulness and lack of poverty focus of much European assistance, she remained engaged and was soon seeking to increase UK influence over EU aid policy by forging an alliance with three other European Development Ministers (from Germany, Holland and Norway).89 The new government also set up the Department for International Development (DFID) as a separate Ministry and charged it with drawing up an institutional strategy paper for maximising British influence within the EU and other international organisations. The DFID explicitly recognised the value of working through such bodies, stressing in its first White Paper on international development that “We must not overstate what we can do by ourselves. We must not understate what we can do with others”.90

Notes

1 Stephen George, An Awkward Partner: Britain in the European Community, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, p. 1 and p. 244.

2 Comments by UK Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, cited in The Independent, 16 February 1995

3 Carol Cosgrove Twitchett, Europe and Africa, Saxon House, Farnborough, p. 169.

4 Adrian Hewitt, “Britain and the European Development Fund”, in Anuradha Bose and Peter Burnell (eds), Britain’s Overseas Aid since 1979, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1991, p. 86.

5 Lynda Chalker, “The UK’s View of the Future of European Development Cooperation”, in Marjorie Lister (ed), European Union Development Policy, Palgrave, Houndsmills, 1998, pp. 1-4.

6 Lotte Drieghe and Jan Orbie “Revolution in Times of Eurosclerosis”, L’Europe en formation, No 353-354, 2009, p. 179.

7 Adrian Hewitt and Kaye Whiteman, “The Commission and Development Policy” in Karin Arts and Anna Dickson (eds), EU Development Cooperation, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2004, p. 140.

8 The Guardian, 23 February 2002.

9 European Commission, “Mémorandum de la Commission sur une politique communautaire de coopération au développement”, Bull. CE, suppl 4/71, Brussels, 1971.

10 Dieter Frisch, La politique de développement de l’Union européenne, ECPDM, Maastricht, 1998, p. 8

11 European Commission, Mémorandum sur une politique communautaire de développement, DG Relations Extérieures, Brussels, 1972.

12 European Commission,“Memorandum of the Commission to the Council on the Future Relations between the Community, the Present AASM States”, Bull. EC, 1/73. Brussels, 1973.

13 Interview with Dieter Frisch, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General VIII (1982-93), Brussels, 2011.

14 Idem. This framework came into being with the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which imposed a legal obligation on member states to harmonise aid policies, and the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, which called for greater complementarity at the European level.

15 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF, op. cit., p. 86. This overall rise was, however, not a matter of choice as British contributions to the EC budget for non-ACP countries were determined by the size of Britain’s Gross National Product and voted on by the European Parliament.

16 A. Hewitt and K. Whiteman, “The Commission …”, op. cit., p. 142.

17 K. Arts and A. Dickson, EU Development, op. cit., pp. 142-43.

18 Interview with M. Lake, Brussels, 2011.

19 Interview with P. Pooley, Aylesbury, 2011.

20 L. Drieghe and J. Orbie, “Revolution …”, op. cit., p. 173 and p. 179.

21 K. Arts and A. Dickson, EU Development …, op. cit., p. 125.

22 Interview D. Frisch, 2011.

23 Interview, P. Pooley, 2011.

24 Interview with Tom Glaser, ex-Head of EU Representation in Budapest, Cardiff, 2011.

25 Interview, D. Frisch, 2011.

26 Idem.

27 Isebill Gruhn,“The Lomé Convention: Inching Towards Interdependence”, International Organization, vol. 30, No. 2, 1976, p. 254.

28 Idem.

29 Interview, P. Pooley.

30 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 89.

31 In the interest of UK consumers, Britain called for lower sugar prices while proclaiming its commitment to the Commonwealth’s development.

32 Cited in Frisch, La politique de développement, op. cit., p. 12.

33 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 88.

34 Interview, D. Frisch.

35 David Wall, “Britain, the EEC and the Third World”, in Roy Jenkins (ed), Britain and the EEC, Macmillan, Houndsmills, 1983, p. 190.

36 Christopher Erswell, UK Aid Policy and Practice 1974-90, Universal-Publishers, Florida, 2001, p. 66.

37 D. Frisch, La politique de développement, op. cit., p. 20.

38 Hassan Selim, Development Assistance Policies and the Performance of Aid Agencies, Macmillan, Houndsmills, 1983, p. 178 ; A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 88.

39 Baroness Young, House of Lords Debate, 1 July 1985, vol. 465, col. 1008.

40 Interview with ex-official, Aid Policy Department, ODA, 2011.

41 European Commission, “Memorandum on the Community’s Development Policy”, 15 Bull. EC suppl. 5, 1982

42 Interview, M. Lake.

43 Idem.

44 Ann Clywd, House of Commons Hansard Debates, 20 December 1989, Column 937.

45 European Report, 13 June 1990.

46 Interview with Ian Boag, Former Head of four Commission delegations, Brussels, 2011.

47 Interview, D. Frisch.

48 Baroness Chalker, House of Lords Debate,13 December 1993,vol. 550, col. 1169.

49 Lynda Chalker, “The UK’s View ...”, op. cit., p. 1.

50 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 92.

51 Antonique Koning, “The European Commission” in Aidan Cox, John Healey and Antonique Koning (eds), How European Aid Works, ODI, London, pp. 131-36.

52 Interview, M. Lake.

53 ODI, EU Aid Post-Maastricht, ODI, London, p. 2.

54 Lynda Chalker, “Britain’s Role in the Multilateral Aid Agencies”, speech to the ODI, 16 May 1990.

55 Interview, P. Pooley.

56 Idem.

57 Idem.

58 Gordon Crawford , “Whither Lomé? The Mid-Term Review”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 , pp 503-514.

59 La Lettre Afrique Expansion, No 392, 27 February 1995.

60 Agri Service International Newsletter, 13 April 1995.

61 Karin Arts and Jessica Byron, “The mid-term review of the Lome IV Convention”, Third World Quarterly, vol 18, No 1, 1997, p. 83.

62 K. Arts and J. Byron, “The mid-term review …”, op. cit., p. 76.

63 Interview, M. Lake.

64 Interview, D. Frisch.

65 The Guardian, 22 February 2002.

66 As EC External Affairs Commissioner (1999-2004), Patten was instrumental in pushing DGVIII to work more closely with DG Trade; interview, M. Lake.

67 Idem

68 Interview, T. Glaser.

69 Interview, P. Pooley.

70 Interview, T. Glaser.

71 Interview, senior Commission official, Brussels, 2011.

72 Interview, M. Lake.

73 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 94.

74 C. Cosgrove Twitchett, Europe and Africa, op. cit., p. 136.

75 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 87.

76 The UK Labour Minister Judith Hart in the mid-1970s was the first to suggest this aid split between ACP and non-ACP states; interview, D. Frisch.

77 Interview, M. Lake.

78 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 90.

79 Interview, T. Glaser.

80 Idem.

81 A Hewitt and K. Whiteman, EU Development Cooperation, op. cit., p. 143.

82 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 95.

83 Geoffrey Howe, “The Future of the European Community”, International Affairs, vol. 60, No. 2, 1984, p. 187.

84 Interview, D. Frisch.

85 When the UK began competing successfully for contracts in Eastern Europe, the Commission imposed a quota preventing them “from exceeding in contracts awarded the proportionate value of the EDF contributions”; see A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 88.

86 Interview, M. Lake.

87 A. Hewitt, “Britain and the EDF”, op. cit., p. 92.

88 Interview, D. Frisch.

89 The so-called Utstein Group later evolved into the Nordic Plus group of like-minded donors.

90 DFID, Eliminating World Poverty, DFID, London, 1997, p. 20.

Auteur

Gordon D. Cumming is a professor of political science at Cardiff University. He is an honorary member of the Royal Historical Society and teaches as a visiting fellow at the Bordeaux Institut d’Études Politiques (IEP). He began his career in the British Foreign Office. His research interests concern the foreign and development policies of France, Britain and the European Union. He also focuses on French and Anglo-American non-governmental organisations and on policies to promote the capability of civil society. He has produced reports for the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) and for Chatham House. In addition, he has published numerous articles, chapters and books (Aid to Africa, 2001; French NGOs in the Global Era, 2009; and, with Professor Tony Chafer, From Rivalry to Partnership: New Approaches to the Challenges of Africa, 2011).

© Institut de la gestion publique et du développement économique, 2013

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search