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EU response to fragile situations

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EU response to fragile situations

This Communication proposes a strategy for an agreed and coordinated European Union (EU) response to fragile situations in third countries. The strategy is based on better use of the various instruments at the disposal of the EU at the political, diplomatic, humanitarian, development and security levels.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 25 October 2007 – Towards an EU response to situations of fragility – engaging in difficult environments for sustainable development, stability and peace [COM(2007) 643 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Fragile situations are a major obstacle to sustainable development, regional stability and international security. They are triggered by several factors, such as structural fragility of the economy, a number of democratic governance shortcomings, environmental degradation or access to natural resources. In these situations, the State is unwilling or incapable of meeting its obligations regarding service delivery, management of resources, rule of law, security and safety of the populace and protection and promotion of citizens’ rights and freedoms.

By virtue of its position as main donor of humanitarian aid and development aid and as an important actor in international security and policy matters, the EU has special responsibilities in addressing situations of fragility.

Early warning, analytical, monitoring and assessment tools have been developed in the area of fragility prevention. Development cooperation and political instruments play an important role in the implementation of preventive measures. Development cooperation addresses the root causes of insecurity. Within this context, country strategy papers (CSPs) present a potential that needs to be enhanced. And political dialogue, an essential element of any cooperation agreement between the EU and third countries, can help to build national strategies aiming at a durable exit from fragility.

First of all, the response to fragility is ensured by long-term development cooperation, through the CSPs in particular. In cases where this is not possible due to deterioration of the situation, the EU applies political and diplomatic instruments. Finally, when situations of fragility slide into crises with humanitarian implications, humanitarian aid is provided.

Response to fragility must be adapted to the country concerned, by focusing long-term strategic response and initial response on addressing the immediate needs of the population, vulnerable groups in particular. Moreover, it is important to avoid creating “aid orphans”, by striving for complementarity in interventions through the EU Code of Conduct and, within the humanitarian aid framework, through its Forgotten Crisis Assessment methodology. Further coordination within the EU is also necessary.

Management of the post-crisis phase is ensured by the “Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development ” (LRRD) strategic framework, which aims at the creation of synergies between the withdrawal of humanitarian aid and the transition to development activities. The Commission underlines the need to improve the framework, through better integration of governance, institutional development and security in particular.

In addressing fragility, the EU must improve the use of its resources, i.e. Community instruments, the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) instruments, but also Member States’ bilateral aid. Specifically, it should encourage increased synergy between existing financial instruments, i.e.:

  • The European Development Fund (EDF), which finances flexible mechanisms for post-emergency action and transition to the development phase.
  • The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which provide for a special emergency procedure allowing transition to development and specific measures to be implemented when stability and humanitarian aid measures cannot intervene.
  • The Instrument for Stability, which provides for support in situations of crisis or emerging crisis, initial post-crisis political stabilisation and early recovery from natural disasters.
  • The humanitarian aid instrument, used when situations of crisis have humanitarian implications, whatever the level of fragility and the causes of the crisis.
  • The thematic programme Non State Actors and Local Authorities in Development and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which provide for procedures applicable to situations that are not favourable to participatory development or to respect for human rights. Specifically, the EIDHR can fund activities without approval from the governments of partner countries, which is fundamental in certain situations of fragility.
  • Budget support, which has often been used by the Commission in post-conflict cases to address urgent financial needs, consolidate key state functions and maintain social stability.

Finally, the Commission proposes a series of actions, namely:

  • Endorsement and implementation of Principles of Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations, elaborated by the OECD Development Aid Committee (DAC).
  • More systematic inclusion of issues concerning fragility in the political dialogue with fragile partner States.
  • Regular exchanges of risk analyses and relevant EU responses, at the field level and also at headquarters.
  • Mapping of bilateral and EU aid modalities with particular focus on the complementarity of CFSP/ESDP joint actions, the Instrument for Stability, the African Peace Facility and long-term cooperation instruments.
  • Review of assessment and analytical tools on governance, conflicts and disaster monitoring.
  • Improvement of the budget support mechanism, including through better coordination with international financial institutions.
  • Strengthening of the partnership with the United Nations and other multilateral organisations.


Council conclusions on EU response to situations of fragility. General Affairs and External Relations Council – 19 November 2007 [Not published in the Official Journal] (pdf) (FR).

The Council approves, among other things, in the name of the EU, the “Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations” and calls on the Commission to present an implementation plan for the year 2009 based on its conclusions.

Last updated: 31.01.2008