Aid groups lash
out at Solana plan to streamline Councils
has unveiled plans for a slimmed-down Council of Ministers as part
of radical reforms to make the European Union less complex and bureaucratic.
At present EU
government ministers meet in 16 separate configurations of the institution,
ranging from trade to transport, according to their national portfolios.
of the Council of Ministers, wants to reduce the number of areas
covered to 10 by scrapping some and merging others.
He has sent
a paper outlining his plans to member state capitals.
Both he and
the Spanish presidency are hoping a deal can be clinched on streamlining
the institution's work at the forthcoming summit of EU leaders in
Seville (20-21 June).
would, for instance, involve merging the council for finance and
economics (Ecofin) with the one for budgets; fisheries would become
part of the agriculture council; environment would come under health;
and industry would be grouped with research.
most controversial aspect of his proposals is that the council for
overseas development should be subsumed by the general affairs council,
which comprises the foreign ministers from the 15 member states.
activists, who first learned of this idea last weekend, have already
started mobilising against it.
it would form part of a trend under which the EU is continuously
allowing its focus to shift away from the world's poorest countries.
A report by
British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND), published on Tuesday
(28 May), laments how the EU is gradually giving more to its 'near
abroad' in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean than to Africa,
Asia and Latin America. The proportion of EU aid targeting low-income
countries fell from 70% in 1990 to 39% in 2000, it states.
Dutch aid analyst
Mirjam van Reisen, who wrote the report, said the Solana idea is
"smelling of vulgarity".
There is a danger
that development advocates will "look like an orchestra on the Titanic,
playing vigorously while the ship sinks", she added.
head of policy with UK-based One World Action, said: "For the EU
to be taken seriously as a global player, it needs a stronger voice
on international development.
to abolish the development council would put it further at the bottom
of the external relations agenda."
An EU official
said the Solana suggestion would probably be resisted by many of
the Union's development ministers, who meet in Brussels today (30
though, that their colleagues holding the foreign affairs portfolio
could back it and that this could prove decisive.
There was speculation
earlier this week that Solana would discuss his plan with development
ministers over lunch.
But a spokesman
for the Spaniard yesterday confirmed he would be away on a diplomatic
mission to the Middle East.
Solana had previously
presented a paper on making the conduct of EU affairs more efficient
to the Barcelona summit in March.
Among his recommendations
then were that the duration of the Union's rotating presidency should
be extended from six months to two-and-a-half years.
Voice - Volume 8 Number 21 - 30 May 2002