A Jumbo Financial Instrument for EU External Action?

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Publication Date 19/02/2019
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By proposing to integrate 11 existing financial instruments into a unified Neighbourhood, Development, International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), the European Commission hopes to both simplify its spending on external action under the EU’s general budget for 2021-2027 and make it more effective. Can the NDICI – by overcoming unnecessary budgetary fragmentation and overlap – also be an instrument facilitating the Union’s ‘integrated approach’ to external conflict and crisis? As the proposal now stands, there are still a number of blind spots that could undermine its effective contribution to a multidimensional, multi-level, multilateral and multi-phased approach to address fragility and instability in third countries.

The current external financing instruments of the EU, as established under the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), have struggled to provide enough coherence and flexibility in responding to today’s quickly shifting context. In the face of mounting instability in the neighbourhood (and beyond) and a sharp increase in refugee flows and migration, the key finding of a mid-term self-assessment by the Commission was the need for "more strategic and overarching programming" and "coherent interactions at the operational level in the renewed international context". The need for flexibility and the problem of silo approaches similarly figure in an externally evaluated Coherence report and the European Parliament’s implementation assessment.

In an effort to address these recommendations, the Commission has come up with a new and bold proposal for future spending on issues relating to the neighbourhood, development and international cooperation. By merging the 11 existing instruments outlined below into one financial instrument, the NDICI seeks to increase simplification, coherence, responsiveness and strategic direction in EU external action.

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