A Shift in European Union Development Policy

The western world and, particularly Europe, is having a leading role in the creation of a new global order in many aspects. Recent and current phenomena such as the economic and financial crisis of 2007 and conflict and instability in the Middle East have provoked major structural changes in both sovereign states and multilateral organizations which are now being reshaped to better respond to these challenges.

These challenges, together with the prioritization of deep change, are of extreme importance in the case of the European Union. This true especially now, given that its political and economic authority in the international sphere is under question and its value and capability is constantly tested in the enormous adversity it encounters. This is also the case with respect to its foreign policy in development and cooperation. An agenda has been designed and its most recent and important milestone are, without a doubt, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Post-2015 Development Agenda became a reality on January 1, 2016, when the new Sustainable Development Goals succeeded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted in 2001, the MDGs were a set of eight goals and eighteen targets to be met before the end of 2015. As for the SDGs, these are a set of seventeen goals and one hundred and sixty-nine targets. Officially known as Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs represent a call and plan for action, bringing together countries and stakeholders committed to implementing it through collaborative partnership. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is meant to stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for the planet and for humanity—and its programs already seem to be in motion.

This paper examines what characterizes this new world order and how it has forced a reshaping of EU development policy. It will also analyze to what extent and how the latest European regulation regarding development addresses sustainable development. As a leading actor, it is of vital importance to understand what might be challenging the EU’s global weight and traditional leadership role in the field of development and how the EU is responding.

Nevertheless, what this paper attempts to accomplish is far from a comprehensive analysis of the EU’s development policy and the ongoing process of change and transformation that is being undertaken. This is merely a review of current events and what they imply in terms of the direction that EU policy in this field is headed.