On 10 April, the European External Action Service (EEAS) falsely claimed it was the biggest development donor in a tweet saying:

We remain the biggest development donor. But we know we need to do more collectively and continue to make sure we leave no one behind!

The tweet is accompanied with a short videoclip, strongly suggesting that the EU provided 57% of development assistance in 2017. Both the link provided in the tweet, and a subsequent link to an official European Commission press release, lead to statements reinforcing this suggestion, with titles such as

EU remains biggest development donor: €75.7 billion in 2017


EU remains the world’s leading donor of development assistance: €75.7 billion in 2017

respectively. However, if you conclude from these titles that the EU is providing these funds, you would be wrong. In fact, the official, preliminary data given by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) doesn’t even mention the EU: it merely mentions member states. Again, the European Commission seems very eager to claim credit for, well, other people’s ability to collect taxes, really.

There are two points that have to be pointed out in relation to these numbers, however. Firstly:

Most of the EU institutions’ Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending is, for the purposes of ODA/GNI reporting, imputed to EU Member States, i.e. Member States data include part of the institutions’ spending. The ODA provided through European Investment Bank (EIB) own resources is not imputed to Member States and is additional to the Member States’ ODA.

So it is very hard to distinguish money spent through the EU, even though it was financed by member states, from money spent by member states themselves. Secondly:

According to preliminary data, in-donor refugee costs reported by EU Member States decreased from €11.2 billion (or 14.4% of collective EU ODA in 2016) to €10.3 billion (or 14.2% of collective EU in 2017). This decrease of in-donor refugee costs reflects the fact that in 2017, some EU countries experienced a lower number of arrivals of refugees for which the costs can be recorded as ODA; e.g. only costs for the first year of a refugee’s stay.

Which means that there seems to be an overlap in ‘development money’ and money used to pay for mass immigration. Both these facts reveal that the situation is far more complex than at first sight. Which makes the following quote by EU Commissioner for International Cooperation & Development Neven Mimica all the more worrying. One gets the sneaky suspicion that Mimica himself is unclear on what the figures represent exactly:

The EU and its Member States continue to provide over half of the total Official Development Assistance globally, investing in people, stronger institutions and societies. However, I am strongly concerned about the decrease of EU collective ODA and of development assistance worldwide. Achieving sustainable development requires a persistent collective effort. We know we need to do more. As the world’s leading ODA provider the EU must show leadership and responsibility.

So we have a supra-national organisation broadly claiming the accomplishments of its member states as its own. Using, it might be added, not its effectiveness, but spending as ‘claim to fame’, which is the worst possible measurement. Then we are confronted by a Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development who seems unsure about the meaning of a decrease in ODA. Who, in reaction to this, blindly insists “we need to do more“. So even though in 2017 alone, EU member states provided the majority of ODA funds, even though there is no indication of effectiveness, “we“, which means the taxpayer, “must do more” which means pay more taxes.

When will it be enough?