This is a momentous year for EU development cooperation.
On the one hand, the ‘development project’ faces unprecedented challenge, the result of a vicious interaction between the food, fuel and financial crises, with climate change assuming ever-greater urgency. On the other hand, the EU faces major changes and choices, in 2009 – the result of elections to the European Parliament, the appointment of a new European Commission, the potential final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the results of the fundamental budget review.
Decisions made this year will have a direct effect on the EU’s ability, in the long-term, to live up to its potential as a proactive and effective actor on the international stage. At the end of 2009, the EU could find itself in a stronger position, ready to play a more prominent role in the world, looking after its own interests whilst recognising that those interests are reinforced by an international outlook that actively promotes stability and sustainable development. The 27 Member States could be working towards a shared vision of development cooperation, focused on eradicating poverty, pooling expertise and resources. Or they could find themselves at crosspurposes.
In 2003, Maxwell and Engel proposed four possible scenarios for European Development Cooperation to 2010. It is interesting to speculate as to which scenario best describes the current position, and which the most likely in 2010.