Bogdan Cristel / Reuters A large European Union flag, May 9, 2013.

The EU's Misplaced Foreign Aid

Why It's Spending in the Wrong Places

Europe, it seems, has little sense of how to prioritize its overseas spending. Although it was faced with civil wars or state failures in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and in parts of the Sahel, the EU did not focus enough on assisting its immediate neighbors, and instead, took on a global development role, even though it currently faces budget constraints.

According to the latest available data and reports from the European Commission, which was for the year 2014, the European Commission has poured vast sums into aid and other projects in developing countries, as well as into integrating its eastern and southern neighbors into the union. It earmarked close to $68 billion to cover such programs between 2014 and 2020. And that's without counting the $32 billion budgeted over that same period by the European Development Fund (EDF), the EU’s main aid arm, and the average of $9 billion in loans and grants that the European Investment Bank distributes to non-EU countries every year. This assistance is only surpassed by the United States: the EU spent approximately 63 percent of what USAID did in 2014.

A closer look at how the EU spends that money reveals there is an obvious lack of unity in its efforts around the globe, especially when it comes to the EDF: the United Kingdom prefers to support the Commonwealth countries, France rallies for Francophone nations and military operations in the Sahel, and Spain pushes for funds to go toward Latin America, for example. Further, at a time when the continent is struggling to manage migration and security, there seems to be little effort to send resources to where those problems originate. The Commission’s Development Cooperation Instrument, a body within the European Commission charged with reducing global poverty, will spend some $21 billion between 2014 and 2020, and is a good example of Europe’s confused priorities. It has allocated 30.1 percent for South Asia, 22.7 percent for North and South East Asia, 19.8 percent for Latin America, 8.5 percent for Central Asia—and only 6.6 percent for Africa and 4.3 percent for

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