Summary of hearing of Andris Piebalgs - Development
European Parliament press release - 12 January 2010
Andris Piebalgs, the Latvian Commissioner-designate for Development, fielded Development Committee questions on the key aim of development policy - fighting poverty - as well as aid effectiveness, the impact of climate change on developing countries and co-ordination among EU policy makers. MEPs of all political groups set out their development policy priorities at the start of the hearing.
Outlining his aims for the next five years, Commissioner-designate Piebalgs listed the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ensuring delivery on existing development assistance commitments, aid effectiveness, policy coherence and respect for human rights.
Mr Piebalgs underlined the need to take advantage of the creation of the post of a foreign policy High Representative and External Action Service, without, however "allowing development policy to be seen in any way as simply a tool to achieve wider political goals for the EU". He also stressed the need "to maintain the EU's role as a champion of the developing world."
Policy coherence for development
Charles Goerens (ALDE, LU) asked how Mr Piebalgs would ensure that development aims are not undermined by other decisions in fields such as security, agriculture, fisheries, and trade. Mr Piebalgs agreed that "it would be wrong to give money with one hand and take it away with another policy."
Replying to a question by Isabella Lővin (Greens/EFA, SE) about what the Commission could do to prevent fisheries agreements leading to over-fishing in the developing countries, Mr Piebalgs affirmed that the long-run aim of these agreements is to develop national fishing capacity in the developing countries. The implementation of the forthcoming reform in this field would be monitored closely in order not to endanger development aims, he added.
Promoting agriculture in the developing world is one of the MDGs, noted Mr Piebalgs in reply to a question by Michèlle Strifler (EPP, FR), adding that both small and large-scale farmers deserved to succeed.
Land ownership is a prerequisite for agriculture's success, and countries where it is lacking must be helped, he said in reply to a question by Gay Mitchell (EPP, IE).
Commenting on the risk that Official Development Assistance might be redirected to fund climate change related aid, Mr Piebalgs stressed the need, in a reply to Harlem Desir (S&D, FR),to deliver on aid pledges for 2010-2011. He also underlined that even though climate change and poverty eradication are linked, they should be funded separately. In this context, the Commissioner-designate said that he was open to the possibility of introducing a Tobin tax.
Immigration and development
Replying to Véronique De Keyser (S&D, BE) on the link between development and migration and the current revision of the Cotonou Agreement, Mr Piebalgs said that new forms of migration, such as repatriation programmes, would be included in the revised Agreement. "We must open up for legal immigration, otherwise the risks are greater for illegal immigration", he added.
New EU institutional architecture
Given the institutional reform introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, Filip Kaczmarek (EPP, PL) suggested establishing a simpler system for managing development aid, so as to avoid treating similar countries differently. Mr Piebalgs underlined that the Treaty makes development policy a Community competence, and that the Development Commissioner be responsible for all development planning, programming and impact assessments.
As the Development Commissioner will also represent the Commission in Foreign Affairs Council, Mr Piebalgs felt that "even if there is a new institutional architecture, the basic elements are there to preserve development policy as a common policy."
Replying to a question by Charles Tannock (ECR, UK) about potential conflict in the EU delegations because development experts will answer to the Development Commissioner, whereas other staff will report to the High Representative, Mr Piebalgs looked forward to fruitful co-operation with High Representative Ashton, with many decisions taken in agreement with her, adding that he did not believe there could be any "real battles on the ground."
Mr Piebalgs also favoured integrating the European Development Fund into the EU budget, as requested by Parliament. As regards respect for Parliament's rights and prerogatives, Mr Piebalgs said he would do his utmost to ensure full transparency and accountability of his work and would available for the Parliament "seven days out of seven and 24 hours out of 24".