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EU development assistance is distributed through multi-annual strategies and programmes which are jointly prepared by the European Action Service (EEAS) and EuropeAid.

EU development assistance is distributed through multi-annual programmes

EU development assistance

When formulating and managing these programmes, the EU consults the authorities in partner countries and regions. This results in an agreed country and regional strategy paper, which includes a multi-annual national/regional indicative programme highlighting a limited number of focal areas for funding.

During the programming phase, the situation at national and sectoral level is analysed to identify problems and constraints, and an EU response strategy is  established for EU cooperation. This involves a review of socio-economic indicators, and of the priorities of the EU, its partner countries and other donors. The purpose is to ascertain the main objectives and sectoral priorities for cooperation so as to provide a relevant and feasible framework within which programmes and projects can be defined and prepared. The relevance of this framework is regularly reviewed during Mid Term and End of Term Reviews.

It is worth noting that, as far as programming is concerned, the legal basis for the cooperation with ACP countries, financed by the European Development Fund (EDF),  is the Cotonou Agreement  (revised in March 2010), whereas for cooperation with other countries, financed by the EU budget, the legal basis is constituted by specific basic acts such as the Development Cooperation Instrument Regulation 1905/2006.

Policy consistency

The response strategy is defined in line with EU development policy priorities – as outlined in the European Consensus on Development and other documents – such as alleviating poverty, promoting sustainable development, increasing aid effectiveness and achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Every effort is also made to ensure that the strategy is coherent with other relevant EU policy areas (trade, the environment, migration, employment and social cohesion, agriculture, etc).

Ownership – the key

The EU is committed to the principle of ‘ownership’, i.e. that partner countries are in the lead in the process of developing the cooperation strategies and programmes which benefit them. In that respect, the EU acknowledges not only the responsibility of the government but also the essential oversight role of democratically-elected representatives. Therefore, it encourages national assemblies, parliaments and local authorities to get more closely involved in preparing country strategy papers. Likewise the participation of civil society representatives in the policy dialogue phase on programming is also considered very important. 

Division of Labour

As part of the programming process, EU Member States and other bilateral and multilateral donors are consulted in order to ensure that all their developmental actions are complementary with the aim of fostering the division of labour, particularly with EU donors. Eventually, this may lead to a joint programming exercise.

Joint EU decision-making

Country/region strategy papers and corresponding national/regional indicative programmes, as well as their related annual action programmes,  are presented to representatives of all EU Member States, the majority of which have to give a positive opinion before the European Commission can make a final decision.

The European Parliament exerts a "scrutiny right"  but only for development assistance financed by the EU budget. Regarding the cooperation financed by EDF, country/region strategy papers are sent to the Joint Parliamentary Assembly EU/ACP for information.


Last update: 02/07/2012 | Top