Budget support and dialogue with partner countries

Budget support and dialogue with partner countries

Budget support involves direct financial transfers to the national treasury of the partner country – conditional on policy dialogue, performance assessment and capacity building.

This is a way of fostering partner countries' ownership of development policies and reforms and addressing the source, not the symptoms, of underdevelopment.

Budget support accounts for around a quarter of all EU development aid. In 2011, the percentages were 26% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 16% in Asia, 23% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 30% in Neighbourhood countries.

5 challenges addressed by budget support:

  • promotion of human rights and democratic values
  • better financial management, macroeconomic stability, inclusive growth and less corruption and fraud;
  • sector reforms and sector service delivery
  • statebuilding in fragile states/addressing the specific challenges of small island development states (SIDS) and overseas countries and territories (OCTs)
  • better domestic revenue mobilisation and less aid dependency

Fundamental values

Adherence by beneficiary governments to the fundamental values of human rights, democracy and rule of law is a major consideration in the Commission's decision to grant budget support through its three different programmes:

  • Good governance & development contracts – replacing general budget support when there is full confidence aid will be spent in line with fundamental values. The beneficiary's commitment to these practices is assessed before and during implementation (to identify slippage, policy reversals and deterioration).
  • Sector reform contracts – to address sector reforms and improve service delivery. Commitment to democratic practices is taken into account, but carefully balanced against the need for continued provision of vital basic services.
  • Statebuilding contracts – to provide budget support in fragile situations. Commitment to democratic practices are one criterion in awarding such contracts – but the EU takes a long-term approach in which the risk of inaction is weighed against the needs of the country.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for budget support, a country must have:

  • a well-defined national or sectorial development or reform policy and strategy;
  • a stable macroeconomic framework;
  • good public financial management or a credible and relevant programme to improve it;
  • transparency and oversight of the budget (budget information must be made publicly available).

Performance link

In addition, budget support is performance related – it is only disbursed when agreed conditions for results are met – for example targets in health, education, public financial management, etc.
If the Commission considers performance on any of these points is insufficient, it withholds disbursement until credible reassurances or measures have been established.

Implementing budget support

The Commission generally provides budget support in a combination of fixed tranches linked to the eligibility criteria, and variable tranches that are also linked to progress in meeting the agreed targets (health, education, public financial management, etc.).

More details:

French version:

General rules for budget support


EU budget support Communication from 2011

Budget Support Steering Committee

This body – attended by all relevant DEVCO decision-makers and representatives from EEAS and ECFIN – provides tight governance and strategic guidance.

Consulted early in the decision-making process, it discusses prospective programmes and examines issues with disbursements in ongoing programmes where a decision may be required by senior management or Commissioners.

Risk management

Since the 2012 reform, the Commission has in place a set of dedicated, structured rules to manage the specific risks of budget support in line with general Commission practice – at all stages of the process (from identification to implementation).

These rules – which enable us to properly balance risks with potential benefits:

  • identify specific risks (mostly using existing assessments, like human rights strategies and eligibility criteria)
  • identify mitigating measures and risk responses
  • inform budget support dialogue
  • monitor the identified risks and mitigating measures during implementation
  • identify how to react to immediate deteriorations in a partner country's situation