Division of labour (DoL) was recognized as a priority in EU development cooperation policy a decade ago, but has lost importance in recent years. Though the Union still promotes joint programming for better aid coordination, other EU interests took precedence. This reflects general trend of instrumentalisation of European development cooperation, which is less focused on traditional goals like poverty eradication or aid effectiveness but serves more political, security, and economic self-interests. This paper traces the evolution of the European approach to DoL and highlights the major reasons for its limited successes. It claims that among most important ones was the imprecise and inadequate description of the EU’s own comparative advantage and added value. The main aim of this analysis is to propose the concept functional DoL in which the European institutions focus development assistance more on the regional level while leaving national programmes to the Member States. This would better utilise the Union’s unique expertise and help in more strategic allocation of EU aid. Though such a radical shift seems improbable in the short term for reasons including vested interests and path dependency, the EU can already start refocusing on regional development-cooperation programmes. This would be in line with EU external policy goals and allow it to boost regional cooperation while competing with emerging donors like China.
development cooperation, division of labour, joint programming, foreign aid, ODA, development assistance, European Union
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