European Union institutions

The European Union (EU) represented over half of global aid spending in 2016, according to the OECD. As a leader in global development, the EU is also increasingly a leader in putting aid transparency commitments into practice. In 2011, the EU committed to make its development aid finances and project information open and accessible to all as part of the Busan Partnership Agreement. This commitment was repeated in 2017 in the European Consensus for Development. This commitment was partly achieved by European institutions but not by all member states.

The European Commission (EC), based in Brussels, is the executive body of the EU. It develops and implements policies on aid and development. It is also a donor in its own right, with an annual aid budget of approximately €15 billion. The Commission has led the transparency and effectiveness agenda within the EU. An inter-service working group is made up of staff from four Commission departments. This supports the Commission and member states with the publication of IATI data, in line with the EU transparency guarantee.

Key EC Institutions included in the 2016 Aid Transparency Index (EC-NEAR, EC-ECHO, EC-DEVCO) ranked in the ‘good’ category. The EC’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), responsible for the financial and operational components of EU foreign policy, was included in the 2014 Index and the 2015 EU Aid Transparency Review.

The EU has made commitments to aid transparency including:

  • 2017 European Consensus on Development
    The commitment to transparency was renewed in June 2017 in the European Consensus for Development, which will shape development policy for next years. The transparency commitment is contained in paragraph 115 of the Consensus:

    “The EU and its Member States will continue to champion transparency, which should progressively cover the full range of development resources. They will develop tools to present and use development cooperation data more effectively to improve accountability processes and standards. They will support partner countries to link resources for development with results, by better linking the planning and budgeting processes.”

    The Consensus also commits the EU institutions to publish data on trust funds (paragraph 80) and restates the EU’s commitment to the development effectiveness principles agreed at Busan in 2011 (paragraph 114). You can read our response to the consensus here.

  • 2011 EU Transparency Guarantee
    In November 2011, the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted a common position for Busan, incorporating the EU Transparency Guarantee. EU Institutions and member states agreed to publicly disclose all aid information in a common, standard format so that it can be accessed, shared and published.

Whilst these commitments are welcome, progress is uneven: some EU institutions and members are among the most transparent in the world, but others lag far behind. Our advocacy focus is on the largest bilateral donors and institutions, including the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB), France, Germany and the UK.

Our key aid transparency asks to the European Commission are:

  • Upgrade the EU Aid Explorer, the platform for sharing aid data with European citizens and taxpayers
  • Implement the commitment to publish data on EU trust funds (as stated in paragraph 80 of the Consensus)
  • Extend the transparency commitment to the European External Investment Plan, blended finance and other loans to the private sector


DG European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

DG NEAR is responsible for helping countries to join the EU and for relations with neighbouring countries. The agency manages the bulk of the EU’s financial and technical assistance to these countries. It first started publishing to IATI in 2013 and has made significant progress since appearing in the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, where it ranked in the ‘fair’ category. It was the top ranking EC Directorate-General in 2016, where it ranked in the ‘good’ category. We welcome this improvement and now call on DG NEAR to:

  • Improve its coverage and publish all available activity-related documents to the IATI registry.
  • Require all development finance institutions (DFIs) co-financing activities in areas covered by its mandate to implement the IATI Standard.
  • Develop a strategy for internal and external use of its data with all relevant stakeholders.

Download Donor Brief

DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

DG ECHO is responsible for formulating EC humanitarian aid policy and implementing the EU’s humanitarian aid budget. It also coordinates the EU’s disaster response mechanism. DG ECHO has made significant progress, placing the ‘good’ category for the first time in the 2016 Index. We welcome DG ECHO’s commitment to IATI, where it publishes data on a monthly basis. We now call on them to:

  • Set an example on humanitarian data transparency and begin publishing to IATI’s new humanitarian fields in 2017
  • Increase its frequency of publication to daily during fast on-set emergencies.
  • Promote aid transparency and IATI as a core component of good humanitarian practice at international fora and among its implementing partners.
  • Support the use of the EU’s humanitarian data by ensuring that IATI data can automatically feed into the EU’s EDRIS system, which contains real time information on ECHO Member State’s contributions to humanitarian aid.

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DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid

DG DEVCO is responsible for formulating the EC’s development policy and for implementing EU development cooperation worldwide. The agency manages a number of financial instruments, most notably the Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. While remaining in the ‘good’ category in the 2016 Index, DG DEVCO has fallen behind DGs NEAR and ECHO. We therefore call on it to:

  • Renew efforts to improve the quality of its IATI publication so that it is comprehensive. It should include impact appraisals in particular and make results, contracts and conditions consistently available.
  • Ensure that any internal operating system is fully compatible with the IATI Standard and allows for automated and timely publication of data.
  • Develop a strategy for internal and external use of its data with all relevant stakeholders, in particular by partner countries and civil society organisations at country level.

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European Investment Bank

The EIB is the bank of the European Union and is owned by the 28 member states. It is based in Luxembourg. Most of the Bank’s lending is within the European Union, but its mandate includes supporting the Union’s development aid and cooperation policies. This extends towards some 140 countries throughout the world. This activity accounted for approximately €9 billion of approved loans in 2015, just under 10% of the bank’s total lending.

Publish What You Fund has welcomed the improvement in the transparency of the EIB since it began publishing IATI data in 2015. We now call on the Bank to:

  • Provide more detailed information on the scope and impact of its activities, including loans to the private sector

Download Donor Brief


Catherine Turner

Catherine Turner

Director of Advocacy

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