Brussels (Brussels Morning) One week ago, we adopted EU Council Conclusions on public sector expertise in the EU’s external action. It sounds like a very technical issue and indeed it is. But at the same time, mobilising the policy experience of the EU member states is a fundamental driver for a geopolitical Union in the world. Promoting international partnerships between our public institutions and their peers elsewhere is a distinctive element of the European project, rooted in our public policy models and values.
Our current discussions on public sector expertise are therefore about the how — how to deliver on our ambitions for a values-based external action. The participation of public institutions in international cooperation is nothing new. Together with the European Commission, EU member states have been exchanging best practices with partner public administrations through flagship tools such as Twinning and TAIEX for more than 20 years. Public technical cooperation is vital for the SDGs and for tailored responses in line with the European Consensus on Development.
Moreover, the Team Europe approach provides an opportunity to use this expertise in a more strategic way. Our partner countries want to draw upon the EU’s experience of applying diverse policy models under a shared acquis. By involving our public institutions in the EU’s external action we can build partnerships that nurture policy dialogues with our partner countries.
Applying the ‘policy first’ principle, public sector expertise accompanies reform processes, promotes our European way of doing things and creates an enabling environment for private investment and other forms of financial and technical cooperation to support sustainable and inclusive development. Communities of practice between peers also substantially nurture regional convergence and integration, generating spaces for bi-regional political dialogue. Used wisely, our public institutions might guide us towards a more effective European cooperation system, delivering on our aim to support building back better.
Public sector expertise may not sound appealing and is certainly not about heavy financial allocations. However, it does reflect and underline the public service concept, the role of democracy, rule of law and social cohesion as a condition for stability and sustainable and inclusive growth. It is a distinctive element and a competitive advantage of the EU, a paradigm of the external dimension of the European social agenda, as well as a cost-effective way to do better, to impact in a more sustainable and inclusive way with European taxpayers’ money.
Beyond development, delivering public sector expertise within the EU’s external action is in our own interest not only in terms of influence and multilateral governance, but also in terms of the internationalisation of our home administrations. Peer-learning implies public servants exchanging views and lessons about other ways to apply the policies they are responsible for implementing. A person spending a week, two months or several years on such a partnership returns ready to consider new and fresh approaches to our own public policies.
At Council level, we are committing to incentivise the engagement of our administrations and to overcome operational, administrative and financial constraints. We call on the European Commission to prepare a joint framework on public sector expertise in the EU’s external action. We intend to deliver on a distinctive European cooperation system of shared competencies.
European public institutions and their personnel have their say in the 2030 Agenda. Now is the time to pave the way for them to make a decisive contribution from Europe to the world.