The Council recalled Member States' long-term commitment to spend 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) per year on official development assistance (ODA) with an interim target of 0.56 % of GNI to be reached by 2010. That would mean a doubling of the EU's annual ODA to more than 66 billion euros in 2010. In this context, ministers voiced serious concern about the recent decrease in collective ODA volume from 0.41 % of GNI in 2006 to 0.38 % in 2007.
Ministers also stressed the need to fully implement the 2007 EU strategy on Aid for Trade. In particular, they confirmed the EU's engagement to increase its collective spending on trade-related assistance to two billion euros annually by 2010. Some 50 % of the increase will be available for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, including under Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Ministers underlined the important role EPAs can play in promoting sustainable development, reducing poverty and improving food security by stimulating regional markets, boosting agricultural production and reducing food price volatility.
Regarding the global rise in food prices, the Council confirmed the EU's readiness to increase financial contributions to short-term measures, such as food aid and humanitarian assistance. In the medium and long term, the Union will encourage and promote public and private investment in agriculture in the developing countries, and especially Africa. As the production of biofuels has significant impact on agricultural production, it will also closely monitor the impact of its energy policies on food prices and food security.
Rights of the child
During the discussion on development issues, the Council adopted conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in the EU's external action.
The importance of the rights of the child as a part of human rights in national and EU policies is increasing. Children living in the third world are particularly vulnerable, and promotion and protection of their rights is closely linked to development activities under the MDG agenda. The well-being and successful development of children have a direct impact on progress towards achieving the MDGs. That is why the Council called for the mainstreaming of the rights of the child across EU development cooperation instruments.
The EU has established a number of priority areas where special attention should be given to the needs of children: poverty eradication, protection from violence and exploitation – including child labour and recruitment of children by armed forces or groups – and access to education and training. Special attention should be paid to children, whether migrants, displaced or refugees, who have been separated from their families.
The Council noted the need to be aware of the different situations of girls and boys when exposed to exploitation, also of a sexual character, to domestic violence and trafficking, forced marriages and genital mutilation.
It recalled the importance of linking relief, rehabilitation and development. Health and nutrition services as well as education must be ensured for children in emergencies and on a long-term basis.
In the context of the European Security and Defence Policy, the Council also adopted a revised checklist for the integration of the protection of children affected by armed conflict into ESDP operations.
Starting talks on a new agreement
A negotiating mandate for a new EU-Russia framework agreement was adopted by the General Affairs and External Relations Council at its meeting on 26 May in Brussels. The new agreement will replace the former 10-year Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which expired at the end of last year and no longer fully meets the current needs of the two parties.
The new instrument would aim to include a broader range of areas for cooperation and provide for the future development of bilateral relations in various sectors. Among the fields covered during the negotiations will be trade and economic cooperation, energy supply, the movement of persons, including visa facilitation, international security, and research, education and culture.
The EU-Russia summit in Khanty-Mansiisk on 26-27 June is expected to welcome the start of negotiations, ushering in a new phase in relations.
Council conclusions: Speeding up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
Council Press release - Development (pdf)
Council Presse release - External relations (pdf)
Council webcast of press conference
Council "Competitiveness" 29-30/5/08
Council "Justice and Home Affairs", 5-6/6/08
Council "Environment", 5/6/08
Council "Transport, Telecommunications and Energy", 6/6/08