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Development cooperation

The beginning of the EU's development cooperation coincided with the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and the overseas countries and territories of Member States were its first beneficiaries. Over the years, the ambit of EU development cooperation has gradually enlarged. The EU is now the world's largest donor, working with some 160 countries.

Development cooperation has to be conducted according to the principles and objectives of the EU's external action. Its primary aim is to reduce, and in the long term eradicate poverty in the world by promoting the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries.

The guiding principles of EU external action and development cooperation are found in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, respectively.

The EU's  instruments for financing external action have undergone a rationalisation in recent years. For the 2014-2020 period, the main funding available for development comes from the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), in addition to the European Development Fund (funded by EU countries but not from the EU's budget).