The European Union (EU) has hit a new low in its rule of law initiative to Kosovo, according to a recent report by the European Court of Auditors.
With foreign aid and development programs as Europe’s main tools for foreign affairs, this new report confirms concerns that Europe’s approach to foreign relations is too weak.
The report states that “despite significant EU assistance, progress in improving the rule of law is limited and levels of organised crime and corruption remain high.” For example, there are “safe havens” for organized crime in the northern region of Kosovo, and the pardoning of criminals has been an occasion for top officials to abuse their powers. The judicial system remains incoherent as official bodies “duplicate but do not coordinate” procedures.
And yet money continues to be the EU’s “essential tool of soft power.” Moreover, Kosovo is not an isolated case in failed EU international aid.
The problem with the EU’s approach is that it comes with virtually no conditionality. Foreign aid should be a tool for advancing national interests, not “an entitlement program for international social work.” Countries receiving aid should be dedicated to pursuing economic and political freedoms, as well as upholding previous arrangements with the aid-supplying nation.
The U.S. can apply these lessons by moving more of its foreign aid to programs such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which sets benchmarks for funding based on each recipient nation’s “performance in governing justly, investing in their citizens, and encouraging economic freedom. Critically, the MCC “demands that recipient governments be held accountable for results and make serious, sustained efforts to combat corruption.”
Foreign aid should be used and administered appropriately; otherwise, it is simply a recipe for fraud and waste. Government oversight can and should evaluate procedures that have the potential to lead to misuse. Nations giving foreign aid can also make sure that aid is closely tied to the receiving nation’s compliance with previous agreements. And importantly, the U.S. should suspend aid if there is a failure to comply with specific conditions. This is where Europe’s open-purse approach falls short.
Caitlin Duvall is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.