On 11 November 2015, the Luxembourg Minister Nicolas Schmit, responsible for relations with the European Parliament during the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU, addressed the plenary session of the European Parliament held in Brussels, on behalf of the Council of the EU.
The MEPs discussed the funding of the Union's two new trust funds for Syria and Africa, the "EU Regional Trust Fund" set up in response to the Syrian crisis ("Madad" Fund), and the "Emergency Trust Fund for stability and the fight against the deep-seated causes of illegal migration and the phenomenon of displaced persons in Africa". They invited the Member States to respect their commitments on this matter, designed to complete the Union's financing of the "Madad" Fund (€500 million) and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (€1.8 billion) through voluntary contributions. On 6 November, the Commission revealed that the new funds showed a shortfall of €2.2 billion in national contributions.
Nicolas Schmit recognised that Member States' commitments to the trust funds were insufficient, however, he indicated that these are likely to increase, in particular through the Valletta Summit. He also called on MEPs to take account of the international nature of the crisis.
The commitment of Member States to international organisations and NGOs supporting Syrian refugees has been respected, indicated Nicolas Schmit
Before the MEPs, Nicolas Schmit recalled the gravity of the migrant crisis and the commitments made to tackle it on 23 September 2015 by Heads of State or Government, which include "a major increase in contributions to various humanitarian organisations and financial instruments […], including the two new trust funds".
The Heads of State or Government undertook to increase by €1 billion, the EU's support for international organisations and NGOs supporting Syrian refugees, especially the World Food Programme and the High Commissioner for Refugees. Half of this sum should come from the Union's budget and the other half from bilateral contributions from Member States. "The first undertaking has been met since October", explained Nicolas Schmit, before indicating that Member States had even promised "major additional commitments", meaning that the EU would exceed the planned €1 billion. "Bilateral discussions with beneficiary organisations are already in progress in order to turn these commitments into concrete projects", he hailed.
Nicolas Schmit recognises that the current state of contributions to the Trust Fund for Syria "is not yet satisfactory"
Concerning the new special trust funds, Nicolas Schmit agreed that the present state of contributions to the Trust Fund for Syria "is not yet satisfactory". "We must now proceed with an increase in our collective contribution to this fund, in view of the underfunding of resilience projects, despite the additional €500 million which Member States will contribute via the Union's budget", he explained.
Nevertheless, he wanted to indicate that the EU has already committed more than €4.2 billion since the start of the Syrian crisis for the humanitarian response and called on MEPs to take account of Member States' overall commitment to refugees.
Emergency Trust Fund for Africa: the Valletta Summit will be the opportunity to make additional commitments
With regard to the EU's contribution to the Emergency Trust Fund for stability and the fight against the deep-seated causes of illegal migration and the phenomenon of displaced persons in Africa, Nicolas Schmit explained that the EU's contribution will be divided into two parts. "The first part comes from the European Development Fund (EDF) and the EU's budget. That is why it has been possible to specify this immediately", he indicated, before stressing that the EU's commitment to sustainable development in Africa "should cover the medium and the long-term". Nicolas Schmit then hailed the fact that the Commission will release €1.8 billion from the Union's budget and the EDF by 2020.
On the subject of Member States' bilateral contributions, Nicolas Schmit explained that "in addition to their contribution to the EDF, about twenty Member States have announced an additional national contribution" and that Switzerland and Norway are also planning to contribute to the Emergency Trust Fund. "In parallel, Member States' bilateral programmes continue to be implemented", he declared. However, he did recognise that the figures which have been disseminated concerning the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa "are not yet on a level with the challenges".
Nevertheless, Nicolas Schmit stated that the Valletta Summit will be the opportunity to make additional commitments. "Therefore, I ask you to understand why, today, I am unable to communicate precise and finalised figures about Member States" bilateral contributions to the Emergency Trust Fund. Some of these will depend on the outcome of negotiations in Valletta", he explained.
For Kristalina Georgieva, the trust funds help to improve the effectiveness and impact of European spending
Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Budget and Human Resources, highlighted the importance of the trust funds which, for her, help to "pool enormous funds that, otherwise, would be dispersed". For her, these help to increase the effectiveness and impact of European spending.
She recalled that the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa aims "to help people deal with the initial causes of instability" and "tackle the roots of the migration problem". She declared that she hoped Member States would commit more money to the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa at the Valletta Summit on 11 and 12 November. In terms of the "Madad" Trust Fund, she believes that this helps to "ensure coherence and a global approach to the Syrian crisis".
During the debate which followed, a large majority of MEPs stressed the importance of European funding in helping refugees and appealed to Member States to respect their undertakings. Others also regretted that many Member States had reduced their public development aid. Others appealed to Member States to devote some of the reimbursements obtained from their national contributions for 2015 to paying some of their contributions to the trust funds. Several MEPs stressed the importance of guaranteeing the effectiveness of the trust funds.
"It is an international crisis that does not only concern Europe"
Nicolas Schmit concluded the debate by ensuring that he would pass on to the Council of the EU, the MEPs call for Member States to respect their undertakings. "But it is an international crisis that does not only concern Europe – we require the commitment of the entire international community", he added.
The Minister also stressed the need to rethink development policies in order to "prepare for the longer term". He then echoed the appeal made by several MEPs, recognising the need to guarantee the effectiveness of EU spending in this matter. As a conclusion, he indicated that "the only solution for controlling these problems is one of solidarity, there are no others".