Opinion: Mr. Jose Luis Trimiño

Mr. José Luis Trimiño, hig-profile EuropeAid employee recently retired, gives an interesting account of the current situation of European Cooperation

February 22 2011

On 7 February Mr José Luis Trimiño, a reputed public servant recently retired from EuropeAid who held various managerial responsibilities in the institution, delivered a presentation in which addressed issues regarding the current situation of European Cooperation. The most interesting topics disucussed were the following:

1. The changes in the external service and the new DEVCO.

One of the most significant changes to the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon is the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS), which aims to promote the image and external influence of the EU. The reform has also created, alongside it, a new Development and Co-operation Directorate-General (DG DEVCO), which brings together two former Directorates-General: DG Development and DG EuropeAid. The establishment of the External Action Service has also opened up the ever-present debate on with the focus of development co-operation, and whether it should be part of foreign policy or an independent policy. In this instance, it was decided that the External Action Service should be responsible for development vis-à-vis strategic approaches and that its implementation should be performed by the Commission, which has brought about detachment and rapprochements, according to Mr Trimiño. Firstly, a notable detachment is the separation between the External Action Service and the Commission due to the strategy phase and multi-annual programming that is now being carried out by the External Action Service, an organisation that is independent from the Commission. Secondly, in terms of rapprochement, it is no longer about the geographical perspective of programming, but rather about aligning development policy and implementation of cooperation, which were previously separated (one in DG Development and the other in EuropeAid). There is also a significantly stronger link between the thematic development policies and implementation, and, furthermore, in organisational terms there will be economies of scale.

Mr Trimiño feels that these changes will be worthwhile, and not only will they allow better work among public servants from different countries, but they will also improve the quality of European presence in the region and will lead to a greater flow of information towards Europe.

He also stressed how the changes occurring in the delegations will rely on the External Action Service, with the exception of the the co-operation sections (both “operational” and “financial and contractual”), which will still depend on EuropeAid.

2. Trends in future cooperation implementation modalities (including budget support)

One of the top issues over the last few years has been discussions over Budget Support and, in particular, the major debate in Brussels over the past year about its future – whether it is appropriate or not, and whether to take on board, or not, different approached towards the general BS and the sector BS.

In the last 10 years, the BS has been slowly consolidated and shaped from somewhat weak foundations. At present we can say that there is now a consolidated BS theory (design, implementation and monitoring) that is deemed to be at the forefront of global co-operation organisations. Nevertheless, there were, and are, doubts about its efficiency and different perspectives, which is the reason why the European Commission decided to launch advice and guidance in the Green Paper publication. EPTISA has contributed to this.

3. The EU's cooperation strategy in Africa

The strategy with Africa has tended to be a purely cooperation one – from donor to beneficiary. But this has been consolidated over the years and around five years ago a continental strategy document was approved with the African Union, which has laid the foundation for the current co-operation.

Leaving aside the Support funds for Africa through FED, which accounts for a large part of European development funding, Mr Trimiño was asked about the European Strategy, specifically regarding the African Union. He pointed out that the strategy is not a source of financing, nor does it give rise to co-operation activities directly, although it does have an influence, albeit indirectly. He stated that it guides the national indicative programmes (NIPs), which is where the projects are “conceived”. It is possible that we will see certain changes in the future – with a new organisation the implementation of these strategies will be carried out through EuropeAid, since the strategy itself and its reviews make up part of the responsibilities of the External Action Service. This, though, could cause some discoordination, as the people designing the document won't be the ones implementing it.

One more issue to stress on this matter is the possible transfer of experiences from Latin America to Africa. Mr Trimiño believes that transferring experience is not very effective according to his professional experience, due to the following two factors: 1) those working in one geographic area rarely have the chance to exchange experiences with those working in another, not to mention the time and effort required. 2) the environment and historical importance of the co-operation is very strong in African countries. He does believe that EPTISA should use of the experience it has acquired from the monitoring projects it manages, and should attempt to pass experience over from one region to another. Eptisa could also set up sessions to exchange monitoring experiences and invite public servants working in different regions.