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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)


Dieter Frisch, Philippe Hugon, Gordon D. Cumming, Giuliano Garavini et Guia Migani

Note de l’éditeur

Moderator: Laure Quennouëlle-Corre

Texte intégral

1From the floor
Did the financial aid benefit the countries which received it? Was it useful? What role did women play in the development policies initiated by the EEC?

2Dieter Frisch
Regarding the first question, I do not have any figures. I can simply say that if we look closely, for as long as we have been financing projects, the results have been highly visible. So whenever we funded a road, the road was there; if we funded a hospital, the hospital was there. It is not right to say that, as it was a European firm that built this road, the obvious conclusion is that the money came back to Europe: in one sense, that is true but in reality the hospital that we financed is not in Europe but in the country in question, so even if part of the money comes back because of the work of the firm that is building something, the asset produced or the infrastructure created is still in that country. Very often, that is not clearly understood. Nowadays, we are moving increasingly towards forms of aid in which we finance budgets on a sectoral basis, or even more generally. Here, too, we can say that this money goes to the countries, and what comes back tends to be the consultants’ fees or payment for technical assistance etc., but I do not think that we can just glibly say that the money does not go to those countries. What is done is done in those countries, even if foreign firms contribute.

3You ask if the assistance and aid were useful; there is a lot of literature on the usefulness or otherwise of aid. I came to the conclusion that aid is useful and remains useful in so far as it is used to support a good policy. In a country which does not manage its own resources well, foreign aid cannot bring fundamental change. The aid is always a support, an addition to something else, and in so far as the policy is good, the aid is useful. Otherwise, it is effectively money down the drain to a large extent.

4Regarding the role of women, I am not particularly competent to say. We have tried to involve women at decision-making and management levels, at least in our own organisations. When Europeans talk about the role of women in development, I sometimes say to them: “but in Africa, at least in West Africa, the women often play a more important role than in Europe”, at least in the economy.

5Philippe Hugon
These are fairly fundamental questions and it would take a long time to answer them. We can say that, all the same, there was a significant increase during the EDF funding period, up from more than three billion ecus to over ten billion by the end of the period, and that, overall, the European Union, through its Member States and through the Commission, nevertheless played a key role in world aid. After that, you have problems with the effectiveness of aid. It is easier to see the results of a project which was the first of its kind. When we focus on structural adjustment and questions arise more at the level of the budgets, we may find that, in terms of results, it is better to set aside budgetary questions and to try to see whether or not particular standards of health and education or various other goals have or have not been achieved.

6I would simply say that, from the point of view of aid evaluation, aid can never be a substitute for the work of project developers. It can play a role in securing flows and in supporting endogenous dynamics. It can never be a permanent substitute.

7We also have another very complicated problem, the problem of intertemporal effects. For example, we can have a discussion on the measures taken from the 1990s onwards, which were policies of financial restraint. Did they not help all the same, in the end, to ensure that financial situations did not deteriorate too far, even if the economic situation got worse, and so, after a certain amount of time, were there not some positive effects emerging? We also have this question which is very difficult to settle because most of the tests, particularly econometric tests, have trouble taking account of these intertemporal effects.

8From the floor
Thank you for these clear explanations about the period of European development aid. During that period, we see that French aid exceeded the volume of European aid, and so the subject of complementarity was indeed extremely important, I imagine, for European players. In that connection, I would like to know how Brussels viewed technical assistance, particularly French technical assistance, which was the main element of French bilateral aid to the African countries. Also, another rather original instrument: how did Brussels view the Franc Zone, a subject which is still topical. In relation to the first round-table debate, I would like to know what the attitude of Guinea Conakry was at the time of Sékou Touré towards the policy of association following independence.

9From the floor
I would like to concentrate on two points. The first concerns current development aid issues. Listening to the various panellists, in the “scientific” introduction I heard Mr Gérard Bossuat use the word “mystery” three times. And when we look at the process of development aid, there is a great deal of mystery. What would you say about that? My second question is this: should we not look at the question of institutional texts? The various partners involved, who are politicians who – mentioning no names – are no longer up to date because the trend is towards the participation of civil society, public-private partnership, giving a dominant role to other people to deal with other subjects such as water, agriculture, etc. What does Africa need today? What goals do we need to consider for the future, the key issues in 2020 and 2015, as opposed to the millennium goals? What is the real development issue today?

10From the floor
I really liked the distinction that Mr Frisch made between France’s policy and that of the French. From the point of view of French politics, you asked yourself what was behind France’s policy. I was a bit surprised that there was no reference to the ideas of General de Gaulle, on what was to become cooperation policy. At a press conference in 1963 he talked for a long time about what was to become cooperation policy, and expressed four ideas that I felt presaged the developments that you then described in what became French policy. The first idea was that the foundation of French policy had to be solidarity and economic benefits. I would like to point out that, as regards solidarity, the question of commodity price stabilisation was addressed in the early 1960s, notably in a very interesting report where we can certainly see the influence of General de Gaulle.

11The second idea was to respect state sovereignty. General de Gaulle did not want aid to be an instrument of the Cold War, and we had to help even those countries that had a communist system; that was a very new idea. Moreover, General de Gaulle believed that, though Africa had to be the priority, other countries must be included, and that was done subsequently; the continent that he viewed as very important was Latin America. Finally, the fourth key point in his press conference was that cooperation policy must fundamentally become a European policy. It has often been said that General de Gaulle was not in favour of Europe, but in fact he was very strongly in favour of a European policy on this, and afterwards it did indeed become a European policy. Listening to you, I was very struck by the frequent discrepancy between the position taken by Mr Ferrandi and that of the head of State.

12Gordon D. Cumming
I shall comment on some of these questions. Regarding the Franc Zone, I think that the Thatcher government did not like the Franc Zone; the British viewed it as protectionist, and Conservative administrations sided with the World Bank, making an enemy of France in that respect. I also think that the devaluation of the Franc Zone was not really a matter of choice. It was done because the World Bank was no longer willing to follow France in that sphere.

13Why were women not involved in European development policy? We must remember that the concept of gender was a latecomer to the aid debate, appearing during the 1980s: it is more of an Anglo-Saxon and Nordic concept. Even today, I would say that the idea of women being involved in development is not really debated in French aid circles, not even in French NGOs.

14I have one comment on the amounts of aid granted. I would say that, in France and Britain, there was the issue of the return on aid. In fact, this question is the reason why everyone in Britain agreed with this system, because this money was coming back, because there were so many contracts, because the trade was advantageous, otherwise the British would have had far more negative things to say. But one thing was clear, namely that there was a different perspective on aid. The British thought that European aid was not effective. They started to publish their own evaluations and distribute them among their European partners partly to encourage transparency and partly to say that they regarded European aid as not very transparent.

15Giuliano Garavini
In fact, I have only one general remark hoping it can answer some of the things you have asked. I recently read a book by the American economist Dani Rodrik who wrote this book called “The paradox of globalisation”, which I think is one of the best essays written to date on the question of economic globalisation. What he says is that up to the 1980s, the world economy worked according to the rules set up at Bretton Woods, which meant opening but at the same time left quite a lot of freedom in terms of political choices to the nation states. So you could be a communist country, a social democratic country, have a lot of investment in welfare state and so on and so forth. After the 1980s we live in an era we could define as an era of hyper-globalisation, which is a new form of world economy, that has much more impact on the internal choices of the single countries. And in this era of hyper-globalisation, a lot of countries have profited from the expansion of global finance and trade, first of all countries such as China, India, Brazil. But the majority, in numerical terms, have not profited from the era of hyper-globalisation. So how does this link to the question of aid? Aid in itself, it’s a bad thing, because if you need aid, this means that structurally there is a lot of imbalance in the world economy. The thing that is worrying these days is that even though most of the largest economies continue to grow, there is always much more aid that is needed to counter growing poverty in large parts of the world. But the aid is always given on conditional terms and carries with it political dependency.

16Philippe Hugon
I would like to comment on the question concerning the Franc Zone. It must be said that all the currency areas have gone, the Sterling Area, the Escudo Area, despite some attempts, but the Franc Zone is still there. That has always been one of the special features of relations with France as opposed to the other Member States. Sometimes it has caused tension or incomprehension. We just need to remember that, historically, when the Franc Zone was created, the agreements between the French Treasury and the African central banks were regarded as fiscal agreements, not monetary agreements, so France still had sovereignty over their management.

17That being so, it still remains the unspoken element of the monetary question in everything to do with the policy on cooperation and aid, since the issue is handled in terms of trade preference, but the question of the exchange rate is not tackled directly in competitiveness issues. That leads us to another question, namely how is the currency treated in aid policies when it was obviously central to the question of optimising product value or the question of exchange rate competitiveness.

18Dieter Frisch
To answer the first questioner, I would say that the fact that, alongside European aid, there were Member States’ programmes which sometimes exceeded the volume of the European programme, is a natural argument in favour of close coordination. It is not a matter of one or two countries deciding what Brussels does, the important thing is to get round the table much more systematically to share out the roles and gradually achieve a certain division of labour. We have been talking about it for a long time, but progress is very slow. We are still just talking about joint programming in Brussels. Joint programming is very much desired but extremely hard to do because there are many problems along the way.

19At first, French assistance was a bit invasive because it was in all the ministries etc. at the time of independence. I think that the situation has since been normalised. I have nothing special to say about the way French assistance works today. The Franc Zone is a question between France and the member countries. The African countries must themselves know where their interest lies. As an observer, I thought that it tended to foster stability for them, but it is for them to weigh up the pros and cons.

20After its initial departure (relations between de Gaulle and Sékou Touré), Guinea Conakry rejoined the Club with Lomé I in 1975 and was treated from then on as one of the ACP countries. We set up a delegation. We experienced entirely normal cooperation.

21Regarding the question from our Ivorian colleague, I would just say that in my view the main thing is that Africa’s resources should be properly managed for its own development. I believe that, in so far as countries have resources, and many of them have substantial resources, those countries should be ready to use those resources in the service of their national development. Unfortunately, when you look at the correlation between endowment in resources and development, it is rarely positive. That I find worrying. It is not for nothing that, after leaving the Commission, I became one of the founders of Transparency International.

22I was pleased to learn about the statement by General de Gaulle, which I had missed. I did not go back that far into the past. Solidarity is good, but we should also be aware that, from the point of view of the majorities that we need to support our policy, the solidarity argument is unfortunately not enough. We also need to be able to talk about mutual interests, and we are entitled to do so. This cooperation is also in our interest – stability in our neighbourhood, access to commodities, control of immigration via development, etc. There is no point in saying that it is just a matter of solidarity or humanitarian aid.

23During the Cold War, it was a bit extreme but we had to respect the sovereignty of regimes that many of us would have preferred not to have to work with. Today, if Mengistu’s Ethiopia were to apply to join Lomé, it wouldn’t be allowed in. We can no longer compare the situation today with the conditions under which we were working up to the end of the Cold War.

24Guia Migani
The Treaty of Rome was signed before Guinea’s independence. Guinea became independent in 1958, but the Treaty of Rome came into force on 1 January 1958 and everything to do with launching the EDF took another year. So from the moment that Sékou Touré’s Guinea failed to indicate that it wanted to continue to be associated with the EEC, that avoided difficult discussions among the Six. In 1959-1961, Guinea was very pro-communist, so there was no question of joining a western club. Moreover, Guinea was very much at the head of the battle for pan-Africanism, so it was out of the question to join an agreement that divided Africa. With Lomé I, Guinea joined in.

25From the floor
Listening to Mr Frisch in particular, I wondered whether, in the face of the Member States’ problems in divesting themselves of their colonial past, the Commission had not ultimately offered an alternative, particularly for the French who wanted it, to introduce a new type of relationship between European aid and Africa, by adding solidarity, ownership, etc. Somewhere down the line, Cheysson tried and was more successful in achieving what Jean-Pierre Cot, the Cooperation Minister, failed to do with just a few months’ experience. Through all the Lomé agreements, etc., the Commission constantly advocated a cooperation policy which no longer merely defended national economic interests but was a policy of solidarity and genuine development; but do you not think that it fought an uphill battle to establish that policy, and that it was ineffective in doing so precisely because the individual Member States weakened the Commission, because they did not want to let go off their powers by introducing multiple controls?

26From the floor
In the end there is culture and culture. I would like to know what Europe’s vision is for Africa? As everyone knows, the world will have a population of 9 billion in 2050. As you know there are food crops and there are crops producing energy. What will the strategic and economic choices be?

27From the floor
I had the privilege of directing the institutional reform programmes for the African Union, and I also worked for 25 years in France at the RATP and at the National Family Allowance Fund. I am a bit disappointed by what I have heard this morning about the effectiveness of aid. I would say that the aid was very effective, for both the giver and the receiver. In so far as the giver did a good job, according to what I have heard this morning about the history of development aid, I think that he got his money back. Can he say now that development aid was not effective? As for the recipient, how many intellectuals were there in the Republic of Congo, in Zaire, in 1957-1958? I am French, it is true, but in my country of origin, Benin, we welcomed intellectuals in an attempt to train other colonised countries. How many intellectuals? How many schools? Then from 1960 to 1970, what happened in terms of education, health and infrastructure? We cannot say that aid was ineffective. I would like us to think about what has been said in this room, i.e. take it from 1960 to the present day.

28My second question might concern the discussion in the third round table, but I shall mention it all the same, on account of the current crisis we are experiencing, now that China has become powerful; should we not establish new aid models so that, in the coming ten years, new indicators will tell us what will be effective and efficient?

29Dieter Frisch
As regards Member States wanting increasing control over the Commission, in my time I did not have the impression that the Commission lost any autonomy in relation to the Member States. And that is perhaps the underlying idea behind this debate, namely that the Member States, be it France or Britain, pushed Europe or the Commission into doing a particular thing. I have some confidence in “ourselves” and in what we did. If, throughout this period, you look at the Commission’s role, the Commission’s initiatives were very often decisive, in contrast to today when the Commission is using the Green Paper method to consult everyone – and I agree, it’s very democratic – but you also consult the Member States before taking an initiative. We are in a situation where the Commission no longer takes the liberty as it used to do of stating, on its own initiative, what it thinks Europe should do. The 1971 memorandum was the first initiative of that type. Deniau’s memorandum was a paper which went against the opinion of some people, including his fellow nationals. Cheysson went farther. So I would be more inclined to say that the Commission had taken on a degree of autonomy that was quite sufficient. I think it is quite right that Member States should supervise us and look at what we are doing.

30With regard to Africa, it is a big subject. I consider that some people, a little unthinkingly, regard Africa as the granary of the world. For the time being, I see it as a net importer. Africa must concern itself with its own food supply first. I consider this whole trend towards biofuels to be wrong in general, not only in Africa. I believe that to feed 9 billion or more people on the planet will require a 70% increase in food production to meet the needs of that population. I think it is worth mobilising all of our agricultural potential. I even see the European Common Agricultural Policy – which we have always viewed as at odds with development policy – in a new light now that we know what world we are heading for. So I am against these biofuels and I am against land-grabbing in Africa to produce them, I do not know who for, but evidently not for the Africans.

31From the floor
You have talked a lot about aid and development, but when you say “aid” it is not really aid, it is cooperation, because you say “aid” while the donor country also benefits. The problem of Africa is also a problem concerning the African people. It is for African men and women to take on the task of developing their own countries. Mr Frisch talked about agriculture of all kinds; the African countries need to be self-sufficient in agriculture. We do not need to plant rice, because people in our countries eat millet and sorghum, etc., not rice. We are not Chinese. Another issue for the Africans is giving women some say; African women are the only ones who can tackle the challenges, because men are always doing stupid things.


With degrees in economics from Bonn University and in modern languages from Heidelberg University, Dieter Frisch served at the European Commission from 1958 to 1993, during which time he spent 24 years in various jobs relating to development cooperation policy. Director General of development from 1982 to 1993, he negotiated the Lomé III and IV Conventions. He is the author of numerous articles and in particular of a pamphlet on La politique de développement de l’Union européenne : un regard personnel sur 50 ans de coopération internationale, ECDPM, 2008. He is on the board of governors of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM, Maastricht) and chairs the planning committee. Dieter Frisch is also a co-founder of Transparency International and is a member of its advisory board and special adviser on European affairs.

Philippe Hugon is emeritus professor of economics at Paris Ouest-Nanterre and research director at IRIS (Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques), responsible for Africa. He works more particularly on African economics and geopolitics, and on comparative African and Asian studies. The author of around a hundred articles in specialist journals and many books on development and international political economy, he is the editor of Revue Tiers Monde and responsible for the chapter on sub-Saharan Africa in L’Année stratégique. Latest publications: 3rd edition of Géopolitique de l’Afrique, Paris, SEDES (2012) and 7th edition of L’économie de l’Afrique, Paris, La Découverte, 2012.

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).

Giuliano Garavini is a post-doctoral researcher in international history at Padova University. He is the author of Dopo gli imperi. L’integrazione europea nello scontro Nord-Sud, Le Monnier, Florence, 2009, published in 2012 by the Oxford University Press under the title: After Empires: European Integration, Decolonization and the Challenge from the Global South (1957-1986). Giuliano Garavini is working on a book about the 1973 oil shock and coordinating a three-year research project (FIRB), funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, on the subject of conflict between oil and renewable energy in the 1970s and 1980s.

Guia Migani has a doctorate in history from Florence University and a doctorate in Politics from the Paris IEP; she is a post-doctoral researcher at Padova University. Her work relates to European development cooperation policy, Euro-African relations, the Cold War and European integration. Her latest research project concerns the history of European aid from 1973 to 1986. She is a specialist in Euro-African relations, and her publications include La France et l’Afrique subsaharienne, 1957-1963. Histoire d’une décolonisation entre idéaux eurafricains et politique de puissance, Brussels, Peter Lang, 2008, and “Les accords de Lomé et les relations eurafricaines : du dialogue Nord-Sud aux droits de l’homme” in E. Robin-Hivert, G.-H. Soutou (ed.) L’Afrique dans la mondialisation, Paris, PUPS, 2012. With Antonio Varsori, she co-edited the book Europe in the International Arena during the 1970s, Peter Lang, 2011.

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

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