Within the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) working group of the European Council, negotiations for the agreement that is to succeed the Cotonou agreement continued. The Cotonou agreement, whose aim was to re-establish macro-economic balances, develop the private sector, improve social services, promote regional integration, promote equal opportunities for men and women, protect the environment and remove barriers to trade progressively and reciprocally, was signed in 2000 by the EU and its Member States and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific for a period of 20 years. Negotiations for a successor agreement (Post-Cotonou agreement) began in September 2018. Because of delays, the current agreement has had to be extended until 30 November 2020 and transitional measures have been put in place to avoid a legal vacuum pending the signing of the Post-Cotonou agreement, expected to take place by the end of October 2021. The chief negotiators reached a political agreement on 3 December 2020 regarding the successor treaty. During the negotiations, Luxembourg regularly intervened in favour of progressive positions on issues linked to migration and gender equality, particularly with regard to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Within the European Council’s ad-hoc working group on the Multiannual Financial Framework - Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument (MFF-NDICI), negotiations continued on the new financing instrument for the EU’s external action, the NDICI, which began in 2018. This instrument’s aim is to bring together most of the European Union’s current external action instruments within a single instrument in order to increase the consistency of policies, synergies and the flexibility of its interventions. This will cover approximately three quarters of the EU’s external financing. Negotiations in a trilogue format resulted, in mid-December 2020, in an agreement in principle on the new NDICI. With an overall envelope of EUR 79.5 billion (in 2018 prices), the new instrument will cover the EU’s development cooperation with all third countries, thus going beyond the geographical scope of the ACP countries. In contrast to the European Development Fund, which was directly financed by the EU Member States, the NDICI will be financed by the EU budget and will therefore be subject to the European Parliament’s budgetary scrutiny.
Discussions within the CODEV working group on the new financial architecture for development were held in parallel and closely in step with the negotiations on the NDICI.
Another key subject on the agenda of the European Council’s CODEV working group was the Team Europe approach, which is the European framework for the external response to the COVID-19 crisis, in order to address the immediate health crisis and humanitarian needs in the partner countries. This concept was subsequently extended to address, in addition, the more long-term structural impact on these countries’ societies and economies, extending to the orientation of the EU’s multiannual programmes with its partner countries.
Since it was launched in April 2020, Team Europe has mobilised EUR 38.5 billion. In 2020, Luxembourg, which aligned itself with this common EU approach, contributed EUR 68.88 million to the COVID-19 response. The political priorities are: 1. emergency aid and humanitarian aid; 2. support for basic health, water and sanitation and nutrition systems; 3. support for the socio-economic recovery. The values guiding the approach are European solidarity with the partner countries and Europe’s determination to show global leadership for a sustainable recovery. The themes of sustainability and innovation are apparent in the links with the Green Deal, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the principle of Build Back Better and Greener. In general, Luxembourg has aligned itself with this approach and welcomes the new dynamic it creates for joint programming but also on the political level, in terms of the European Union’s role on the world stage. Thus, we note a favourable dynamic for the joint programming exercises in the field which began in autumn 2020. In this context, it should be noted that the Team Europe Initiatives, which are a manifestation of the Team Europe approach in the EU’s multiannual cooperation programmes with its partner countries, will be at the heart of programming for future years and will also be coupled to the NDICI, which will become operational in the next multiannual financial framework.
In the context of the response to the COVID-19 crisis, it can be seen that Luxembourg has made a commitment to support the European Commission’s COVAX global mechanism to address the current alarming needs and in accordance with the principle of ensuring fair access to safe and effective vaccines for all. Developed in April 2020 in partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), it is led by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. In order to ensure fair distribution of the vaccines and the principle of leaving no one behind, Luxembourg has committed to supporting the COVAX mechanism with the amount of EUR 1 million. The Team Europe team is the largest donor, giving EUR 853 million.
While Luxembourg has for many years mobilised new technologies and innovative solutions as levers in its development and humanitarian action interventions, the subject has taken on a new impetus in recent years in the European and international cooperation agenda. The Digital for Development (D4D) concept seeks to promote the integration and capitalisation of digital tools by development assistance and humanitarian action operators, both in regard to basic social services, major innovative development projects such as e-administration or as a tool for the formalisation and monitoring of development policies. Africa is at the heart of these developments and it is widely recognised that ICTs will play a key role for its peoples at a decisive time for technological governance, a turning point rendered all the more urgent by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The European Commission has thus made Digital 4 Development a vital priority for international partnerships in the years ahead. It aims to make Europe a world leader in digital transformation, working towards a fair and competitive digital economy that puts people and the principles of human rights at the heart of its actions. Within this perspective and the initiative of five Member States (Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and Luxembourg), the communication entitled ‘Shaping Europe’s digital future’, published in February 2020, established the D4D Hub as a flagship platform for digital cooperation that will make it possible to build and consolidate an EU-wide approach promoting the latter’s value and mobilising its Member States and its businesses, civil society organisations, financial establishments, know-how and digital technologies. In this context, three flagship digital programmes were launched under the German presidency of the European Council on 8 December 2020, including the Global and the African D4D Hub, the EU-AU Data Flagship and the African European Digital Innovation Bridge. The Africa-Europe D4D Hub project will be implemented by a consortium made up of five European agencies, including LuxDev.