Joint press conference with Commissioner Louis Michel
Brussels, 8 April 2009
I'm very pleased to be with you today - along with my dear friend and colleague Louis Michel – to present Europe's strategy to help developing countries cope with the impacts of the current financial crisis.
Just as we are shaping the global recovery for the developed countries, today we are presenting some ideas to shape the recovery for developing countries - less than a week after the G20.
The Commission will press for the implementation of the development ideas we have been pushing, including at the London summit.
At the summit, there were important commitments. Not only the reaffirmation of the commitment to the Millennium Development Goals but also in terms of aid for trade, trade finance, special drawing rights for the IMF. Now we have to be sure all those decisions will be effectively implemented.
Our developing country partners are the least responsible for this crisis but among the worst affected. So we have to face this.
As I have said on numerous occasions, our growth and stability are completely linked to theirs and vice versa.
Offering our assistance is not only the right thing to do – it makes good economic sense, too.
Our promise to help developing countries integrate into the global economy so they can enjoy greater prosperity is a cornerstone of our founding values and will prove a foundation for global recovery.
This must be a green recovery, with a transition to a low carbon economy. The development and climate agendas must be mutually supportive.
I said it before the G20, I said it at the G20 meeting and I now say it again: the recession must not, cannot, and will not be used as an excuse for going back on our promises on aid.
It is true to say that EU aid levels were up last year. € 49 billion in 2008.
But this is no reason for complacency - our figures for 2009 and 2010 will decide whether Europe meets its target for Official Development Assistance (ODA) of 0.56% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2010.
But development aid, whilst crucial, will not be enough on its own to help developing countries overcome this crisis.
First, we need to be ready to front-load our assistance. We must provide aid more quickly. And that is precisely one of the main points of our Communication today. We are using the same concept of advancing funds that we have used for European Union Structural Funds. But this time we are frontloading aid to the developing countries. It is important for them but it is also important for the global recovery.
Second, we need to provide aid more effectively and efficiently. We need to make sure every euro counts. Just from greater efficiency alone among all 27 Member states, we know that we can gain approximately €7 billion per year.
And we also need to recall what the G20 decided in the interests of developing and emerging countries, and we must implement those decisions speedily. For example, we established at the G20 immediate IMF financing worth $250 billion (of which $100 billion comes from European Member States), to be incorporated into an expanded and more flexible "arrangement to borrow" worth $500 billion, and in addition it was agreed to establish a further $250 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocation.
Let me once again thank Louis Michel for his energy and for his commitment to this very important programme.
I would like also to highlight one more point. Something good, something positive can come from this crisis. It is the realisation across the globe, at every level, that any concept of "us" and "them" is outdated. It is just us. All of us, together.
So, we cannot stand aside, we cannot let the real progress made towards lifting millions out of poverty simply be lost. Rather, we must stand side-by-side with our developing country partners and face this crisis together.
In the light of last week's G20 meeting, I am proud that Europe is the first to act.