European Development Policy under the von der Leyen Commission: A Union that Strives for More

Public Panel Debate

Berlin, 19.12.2019


European Commission, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

The beginning of this month saw the start of the new European Commission under the leadership of President Ursula von der Leyen. Together with her team of Vice Presidents and Commissioners she will promote European cooperation and integration during the next five years under the motto: A Union that Strives for More. President Ursula von der Leyen has made clear from the star that she intends to lead a “geopolitical Commission”. In her political guidelines, she stresses the need for a stronger Europe in the world and makes this one of her six political priorities.

The EU is a key advocate for effective multilateralism and international development partnerships. In light of the challenging international environment, the EU will need to build new partnerships and strengthen its relations with African and other partners.

In President von der Leyen’s team of Commissioners, Jutta Urpilainen is in charge of ‘International Partnerships’. Her mission letter outlines the strategic aims of the new Commission in international development cooperation, including the following challenging aspects:

  • Developing a new comprehensive strategy for cooperation with Africa
  • Swiftly conclude a new international agreement to govern cooperation between the EU and the countries of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group of states
  • Using the EU’s development to promote the EU’s values and interests, including in relation to migration management
  • Support gender equality and empowerment of girls
  • Deepening cooperation with civil society, seeking increased involvement in implementing EU programmes


In addition to these substantive priorities, the Commission is also confronted by the ongoing negotiations for the next seven year EU budget that should provide the EU with the financial means to implement its global objectives. This event provided an opportunity to exchange views on the future of European development policy with Commissioner Urpilainen’s top civil servant, Director General Koen Doens, as well as with experts and representatives on EU development policy from Germany.



  • Patrick Lobis, Head of Political Team, European Commission Representation in Berlin



  • Koen Doens, Director General, European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development



  • Koen Doens, Director General, European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development
  • Christoph Rauh, Deputy Director General for Africa, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Reinhard Palm, Head of Africa Department, Bread for the World
  • Eefje Schmid, Head of Office, European Investment Bank, Berlin Office
  • Niels Keijzer, Senior Researcher, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)


  • Christine Hackenesch, Head of Programme, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)


Participants had been invited to continue discussions over light refreshments following the debate.

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