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Mid-term evaluation of the MEDA II Programme - Final report

The MEDA I Programme was formally adopted in 1996. It is the financial instrument of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which was launched in Barcelona in November 1995. In the wider context of the Barcelona Process, the so-called Euro-MED Association Agreements have been signed with most partner countries covering cooperation in political, social, cultural and economic matters. MEDA I covered the period 1995-1999 with an indicative budget of €3.42 billion. MEDA II covers the period 2000-2006 with an indicative budget of €5.35 billion.

The MEDA II Programme has operated in a rapidly evolving environment. In the year 2000 the MEDA Regulation was revised with a view to streamline programming and implementation. Project cycle management was reformed with the establishment of EuropeAid Cooperation Office in 2001. Finally, the policy of devolution led to an increased role for the Delegations in the implementation of the MEDA II Programme. Following the obligation to produce a mid-term evaluation as specified by the MEDA Regulation, the Commission contracted in February 2004 ECORYS-NEI. The terms of reference stipulated that the objective of the evaluation was to “improve the policies and strategies for the use of MEDA funds in line with the Euro-Mediterranean policy context, as specified in the Association Agreements and the Barcelona Process, as well as to improve the management of the MEDA programme by the Commission and the Beneficiary countries”.

The report was finalised in July 2005. It sets out the independent findings, conclusions and recommendations of the evaluation team.

This is a timely report. On the eve of the 10th Anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, the report provides food for thought on a number of key aspects of the MEDA programme, as it makes recommendations for the future.

Richard Weber, Director of Directorate A “Europe, Southern Mediterranean, Middle-East and Neighbourhood Policy” at EuropeAid, Cooperation Office of the European Commission kindly agreed to discuss with Euromed Special Feature some aspects of the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

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1. The report is generally positive about MEDA II’s Performance in comparison to MEDA I. What do you think of this performance and what are the factors that have contributed to this?

R.W.: We believe that the evaluators are right. Everybody knows that MEDA II results are excellent and have been improving since 2001. Three main factors have contributed to improving the performance of MEDA II. Firstly, following the Commission’s overhaul of the implementation of its external assistance, greater responsibility was given to the EC delegations in the management of the MEDA Programme. The MEDA countries have been at the vanguard of this process which has now been completed. It has had a very positive impact on the quality of our co-operation. Secondly, the adoption of MEDA II regulation in 2000, introduced greater flexibility in programming and implementation. Thirdly and most important, the Programme mix that we have applied since 2000 has given greater importance to sector reform programmes. This has been much more efficient than the large scale technical assistance programmes of MEDA I. This has been well understood by beneficiary countries. In response, they have come up with reform measures that were eligible for MEDA support. In some countries these reform programmes constitute now more than 50 percent of our aid and they are highly successful.

2. There are around 20 Recommendations in the Evaluation Report, how do you think the Commission should prioritize them and what time frame will be developed for their implementation?

R.W.: First of all, let me point out the fact that these 20 recommendations have been formulated by independent consultants and that the Commission does not necessarily agree with all of them. These fall under 3 broad categories. These are: “Recommendations to improve the relevance of the MEDA regulation and its successor the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument”, “Recommendations to improve the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the CSP/NIP and RSP/RIP” and “Recommendations to further improve the efficiency of MEDA management and implementation arrangements”. In terms of the first set of recommendations, the new Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) should provide to a large extent an answer to the report’s concerns, in particular in terms of ownership, improving the quality of strategic and indicative programming and a greater involvement of civil society. Of course, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, but I do believe however that the ENPI will provide a good framework to respond to these recommendations. As regards “improving the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the programming” i.e. the second set of recommendations, the matter is not the competence of EuropeAid. These recommendations are addressed in the first instance to our colleagues in the External Relations Directorate-General, with whom we work closely together. What is important here is the notion of “ownership” of the partnership and the need to concentrate on activities of common interest. Therefore, the establishment of a “structured and well

developed dialogue” is certainly a condition sine qua non. The structures created under the umbrella of the Association Committee will be most helpful. As regards the set of recommendations dealing with “further improving the efficiency of MEDA management and implementation arrangements”, which is under the direct responsibility of our Directorate A in AIDCO, the evaluation report first welcomes the shift from project to sector reform support. This is an orientation the Commission will continue to pursue as it has been successful. There is also the question of reinforcing capacity in the delegations, a line that will have to be seriously pursued. Another important recommendation concerns the complementarity of our actions with those of the European Investment Bank (EIB). A fruitful dialogue with the EIB has been established in this regard, and we have been working well both at the strategic level and on concrete projects.

3. What are the future challenges for the improvement of MEDA? What role for EuropeAid in this process bearing in mind that EuropeAid has been instrumental in the improvement of the implementation of MEDA II?

R.W.: The improvement in the implementation of MEDA is the result of work by all Commission services concerned under the supervision and conduct of Directorate A, in AIDCO and of course, in full collaboration with the Partner countries. MEDA still has one year to go and therefore, it is now the transition towards ENPI that is very important. Lessons can be drawn from MEDA in terms of improved programming, increased ownership by beneficiary countries, and close cooperation with the Delegations. The role of EuropeAid is crucial. Devolution can only work if the Delegations can count on the continued support of our Directorate at EuropeAid Headquarters. This concerns substantive aspects of our co-operation as well as financial and contractual aspects.

4. The report recommends “strengthening participation of partners in all stages of project/programming management”? How to you see this happening? What is going to be required from Mediterranean partner countries in terms of joint-responsibility and ownership?

R.W.: I fully subscribe to the recommendation which calls for ownership by all stakeholders. This has been highlighted as being absolutely essential to achieve good results. It is therefore important that from the programming to the implementation stage of a programme, all stakeholders are indeed involved. In this respect, the report provides a number of useful recommendations, for instance it suggests the “earlier involvement of counterpart authorities, i.e. starting from the stage of strategy setting in the CSP”. Also, it is very important to tap as much as possible into local expertise. In the past, there was too much tendency to use expertise outside beneficiary countries whereas today we recognise that lots of expertise can be drawn from the countries themselves and that, by utilising those, ownership is enhanced. There are also recommendations about joint evaluation of tender dossiers. We are already doing this. Ex-post evaluations are also important. A project does not finish the moment our support is phased out. Evaluation should follow and lessons are to be drawn; there is certainly much room for involving partners in this process.

5. The Report mentions “shortage of in depth geographical expertise” as a limitation for Programmers? What does the Commission intend to do about this?

R.W.: Here we do not follow the report. Of course, it is a matter of independent judgement. I believe however that the Commission can mobilise all the expertise necessary. Within the Commission itself, there is a lot of expertise in the various DGs involved, External Relations, EuropeAid, Thematic DGs and the Delegations. We know that knowledge of the countries concerned is important. But fortunately we have delegations in our partner countries; these are the eyes and ears of the Commission.

6. The report points to the fact that the resources are low relative to the high ambitions of the Barcelona Process and the Neighbourhood Policy and the increasing political relevance of MEDA countries’ development for the EU. What do you think?

R.W.: I am sorry to say that I believe that the consultants are right. Since 1995 we have seen that co-operation with the Mediterranean Partner Countries covers an ever wider range of areas. Cooperation has become and richer and richer. MEDA is a large cooperation programme but is true, as the report states, that resources are low relative to the high ambitions and needs of the policy. We are working within a budgetary context that is the reality. We have been underlining the importance of providing adequate resources and can only hope that the discussions of the financial perspectives will provide a better solution. As the evaluators say: “Each policy needs adequate resources and staff”. That applies to MEDA and its successor, ENPI.

7. The report gives the impression that the potential value of small project programmes which aim to mobilise civil society initiatives is underexploited due to the relatively high management intensity.

R.W.: We all know the huge implications in terms of human resources that managing small projects entails. However, the proposal of the consultants to outsource the management to TAOs/BATs (Technical Assistance Offices) cannot materialise. There is no going back on this. The only answer is to increase directly our capacity to manage these projects. In this particular case, the evaluators have not enough taken into account the constraints of the EU financial rules. There is under the current rules simply no room for TAOs/BATs.

8. How to you see MEDA/ENPI in 10 years in order to be recognized as a successful Community Neighbourhood Policy Programme?

R.W.: This is a very difficult question. First, ENPI will build on MEDA and will later develop further. It will use lots of already used instruments under MEDA. There will be continuity between MEDA and ENPI. However, ENPI should allow taking better account of the specificities of each country; it is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Our co-operation under the ENPI will evolve towards more decentralised models of implementation. This implies a greater role for partner countries and hence greater ownership. This will be certainly the case for partner countries that advance well in terms of economic, political and financial reforms. Apart from this, we hope to achieve concrete results in terms of the political dialogue, economic integration, the development of civil society etc. The degree of progress in all these areas shall be decisive for our judgement of the ENPI ten years from now.

9. What is for you the most important factor which explains the success of the MEDA II Programme, which has become over the last three years the best cooperation instrument of the EU?

R.W.: The recipe is very simple to define. The success of MEDA II is due to the very good cooperation established between the various Commission services involved (DG RELEX, Delegations and EuropeAid), and to the tremendous efforts, work and dedication that all Commission staff have invested in our daily work. But above all, the success of MEDA II is the result of the dedication, work and cooperation of our partner countries’ officials, administrators, entrepreneurs and members of the civil society who participated fully to the development of the different projects and programmes. Without this full partnership between the two sides of the Mediterranean area, joined in a common effort to achieve shared objectives, nothing would have been possible. The success of MEDA II is first and foremost their success. And I believe that the recipe to make the future ENPI a success story will be the same: cooperation and partnership between our friends and counterparts in the South and the Commission services and European Partners in the North.

The MEDA II evaluation report will be made available in 3 languages (EN, FR and AR) and will be published on the Commission’s website.

Brussels,11 28 2005
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