The members of the European Union have a mixed record of success when it comes to international development. Many of the northern European states have a long history of generous financial contributions and successful policy development, but most of the larger nations have not been as committed to tackling poverty as they could have been.
Despite a commitment by EU member states in 2005 to increase aid, there is still concern that the EU as an institution is failing in its development goals. Although it has given preferential market access to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), it has a largely ineffective development department which seems unable to distribute the funds which the EU has actually granted it.
Another major gripe that developing nations have with the EU is over subsidies given to EU farmers. Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the EU tries to stabilise farmersí incomes by buying surplus supplies of agricultural products when prices fall below the minimum agreed price.
To maintain the higher price level they restrict imports meaning that developing nations cannot sell their agricultural goods at a competitive rate within Europe. In addition to limiting imports, the EU also subsidises agricultural exports meaning that producers in developing nations have to face unfair competition in their own domestic markets.
As well as hurting the Third World the CAP forces up the taxes of EU citizens and increases the food bill of EU consumers. There has been international pressure to reform CAP for years but this has been resisted by France and Germany, the two main beneficiaries of the CAP program.