Programming is an essential decision-making process through which the Commission together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), the partner countries and regions define development assistance strategies, priorities and funding allocations.

The strategies are in line with global EU development policy priorities, including those outlined in the European Consensus on Development and in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Programming also implements the Agenda for Change Communication, which focuses on increasing the impact of EU development policy by proceeding on the basis of the developing countries’ and regions’ own development policies and plans and align as much as possible on their priorities. It also includes a more targeted and concentrated allocation of funding. As a result for example, in the 2014-2020 period geographical programmes should focus on maximum 3 sectors per country/regions.

The Commission also aims to ensure coherence and complementarity with efforts in related EU policy areas, such as trade, environment, migration, employment and agriculture.

It also seeks complementarity between different donors. To improve results by dividing the work in the most efficient way, the EU and its member states have started to move towards joint programming. This means that they define together which donor should work in which sector. The member states have mandated the EU to take on the role of coordinator and facilitator.The EU started joint programming in selected countries in 2012.


More information on the 2014-2020 Programming processes as well as the programming guidelines can be found here


As a result of this collaboration and following these principles, the following documents are elaborated:

The Commission presents the strategy papers, indicative programmes and annual action programmes to all EU member states. The majority have to give a positive opinion before the Commission can make a final decision. The European Parliament has the power of scrutiny over assistance financed by the EU budget. Starting from the 11th EDF, the Commission and the EEAS are also voluntarily submitting all EDF programming documents to the EP for comment.


  • The Practical Guide explains contracting procedures for EU external aid contracts financed by the EU general budget (Budget) and the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).

    Consult PRAG

  • E-learning course on the Practical Guide. Do you want to know more about EU external action procedures? See our self-learning distance course on contractual procedures.

    e-Learning PRAG

  • e-Calls PROSPECT is the electronic system developed by EuropeAid to facilitate the submission of applications for call for proposals.

    e-Calls PROSPECT

  • Potential Applicant Data Online Registration database contains information on organisations applying for European Commission grants in the field of external assistance.

    e-Calls PADOR

  • Delegated Cooperation, Cooperation with partner countries and with international organisations, Co-financing and Management Modes.

    Consult DEVCO-Companion