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ETTG/Elcano “The future of the EU as global development actor” closed door event in Madrid

May 5, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - May 6, 2022 @ 5:00 pm

ETTG/Elcano event in Madrid on future EU development

The European Union’s development policy is confronted with unprecedented challenges in  the COVID-19 context and the Ukraine crisis. The EU will need all hands on deck to continue  to effectively play a leadership role in global development. Efforts will have to be made on many fronts: inclusive growth, investment and jobs, peace and security, migration and mobility, combating environmental degradation and climate impacts, governance, skills and education, research, innovation and the digital economy. Commission President von der Leyen’s idea of a “geopolitical” Commission was meant to create a new political momentum to fundamentally re-energize the EU’s role in the world and in the area of foreign policy and international cooperation. The recent Ukraine crisis confronts the EU with an urgent need  to speed up this process.

It is against this background that the European Think Tanks Group (ETTG) and Elcano Royal Institute, with the support of the Spanish State Secretariat for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign  Affairs, will organise a closed-door workshop to discuss the future of the EU in promoting  global development. This event will involve policy makers from the EU and its member states, leading think tanks, the wider research community and civil society.  

The underlying rationale of the event is, on the one hand, to foster a rethinking of EU international cooperation by better defining its distinctive features, added value and potential allies in the world, and on the other, to provide inputs for the Spanish presidency of the EU in 2023. The discussions will be held in Madrid, under the Chatham House rule. The workshop will revolve around three main axes, each of them explored in a session with three or four speakers and one moderator, including political representatives from different Member States’ (or EU) Ministries of Foreign Affairs and experts of the ETTG member institutes. 

6 May, Friday

9:30 – 9:45 Opening remarks by Charles Powell, Director of Elcano Royal Institute,  and Geert Laporte, Director of ETTG and Senior Executive at ECPDM 

9:45 – 11:15  Session 1: Role of the EU as a global actor in a volatile world

Although the current process of globalisation may have peaked in the past decade, the COVID-19 crisis and the climate emergency have shown the depth of current international interconnections and the risks and threats (in addition to the benefits) that come with them. The event of such global public ‘bads’ explains, at least partially, the new ‘geopolitical’ narrative of an EU previously absorbed by its internal problems (the 2008 Great Recession, the rise of nationalist and populist movements, the difficult digestion of the Brexit process). 

A more geopolitical role of the Union and a higher profile in the global scene also requires a clarification of its precise voice and role in the current context – a context now defined by a multifaceted conflict between the US and China that escalates in an increasing number of fields (trade, technology, innovation, and, more recently, the relations with Russia).

While the EU “learns to use the language of power” (following the High Representative Borrell’s words) it could also take stock of decades of investment in development cooperation that have de facto moulded its global identity and defined its political, social and economic connections with the Global South. This flagship external policy – which is key for achieving the 2030 Agenda – also differentiates the EU from the two main global players and, particularly, from China – that exhibits competing development and development cooperation models.

This session will shed light on whether the EU can meet its high expectations and if it is able to stand up with these global roles in a multipolar world. This first part will also look at the implications of the gradual integration of the EU aid policy into the EU’s foreign policy.

11:15 – 11:30 Coffee break 

11:30 – 13:00 Session 2 – EU Alliances with “like-minded” partners 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have increased tensions and competition amongst global players and societal models. The global rules-based international order is increasingly coming under pressure. Polarisation is growing and alliances are shifting.  Against this backdrop, the European Union will need to deepen relations with old and new allies in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas to find peaceful and multilateral solutions to regional and global problems.  However, this will not be an easy task. As for Africa, despite the good intentions and declarations issued after the 6th AU-EU summit, the recent vote on Ukraine at the UN General Assembly showed that African countries are not fully aligned with their European counterparts. Power relations are gradually shifting with an African Union that has more choices of partners and a European Union that is under increasing pressure internally and at its borders. In a similar vein, the political and economic links between the EU and Latin America – a region potentially “Europe-compatible” in terms of values and approaches to global governance – seem increasingly weak.  The return of military power in Europe could also lead to negative spill-over effects on Europe’s development cooperation policies, triggering a dangerous securitization of the political debate, as well as diverting resources from longer term development plans towards other areas with a high political pay-off such as border controls, migration management and military expenses. 

The aim of this session is to analyse potential alliances between the EU and other actors in a multipolar world (i.e. Africa, the Americas). The aim is to investigate whether the EU is effectively able to play its global role and possibly ready to address power imbalances in multilateral fora, including the implications of the Ukrainian crisis.

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch break

14:30 – 16:00 Session 3 – Adapting approaches and practices to new realities

Europe has been struggling to effectively play a leadership role in multilateral settings and many see Europe’s footprint on the world stage to be shrinking. Internally, the European integration process is hampered by strong divides, as well as by authoritarian and populist tendencies that affect the EU’s ability to be a credible global normative power. Externally, despite unexpected unity shown in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, the EU struggles to present a united front on many issues and to prevent conflicts and instability in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood and beyond. These limits are also evident on development cooperation policies, where despite the EU and member states being the largest contributors to Official Development Assistance (ODA), in terms of impact the dominant narrative is that the EU is a ‘global payer’ rather than a ‘global player’.

Therefore, the aim of this session is to assess to what extent is Europe willing and able to respond to the above-mentioned expectations of playing a leadership role in global development. It will start from the analysis of the development tools that  need to be strengthened and/or revised and look at progress realised so  far (Global Europe, Joint programming, Policy Coherence for  Development, Working Better Together Agenda, investing in multi stakeholder partnerships, restoring values agendas, European Peace  Facility, finance for development, migration and refugees). In this session  we will also look at the implications of COVID-19 and the Ukraine crisis in speeding up the necessary reforms. New priorities (green  transformation, digital agendas…) and initiatives (Team Europe) will be highlighted.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash.


May 5, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
May 6, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
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