The concept of Team Europe takes a central role in current policy debates on the EU’s international cooperation and is commonly understood as a strategic and practical way of redefining how the European Union jointly engages with international partners.

The most visible outputs of the efforts made under the label of Team Europe to date are the so-called Team Europe Initiatives (TEIs). TEIs are joint flagship activities that combine the contributions by the EU, selected member states, banks and other European actors in relation to specific themes in a specific country or region, or those being pursued at the global level.

Two years after the first TEIs were launched, and coinciding with the Spanish Presidency of the EU Council, this study[1] analyses how Team Europe and a selection of associated TEIs have progressed to date since the overall approach was endorsed by the Council in June 2020.

Based on a review of the literature and key policy documents, we analyse TEIs’ contributions in the four dimensions of (i) visibility and communication, (ii) effectiveness and development impact, (iii) ownership, (iv) and dynamics of harmonization, integration and joint planning. Five case studies of TEIs are subsequently selected to comparatively analyse, on the basis of semi-structured interviews with 30 respondents, the design choices and the challenges and opportunities associated with preparing and implementing actions and joint efforts among European actors and with partner countries. They concern two regional TEIs and three TEIs in selected EU partner countries, respectively located in and covering Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Figure 1. Selected Team Europe Initiatives

TEIGeographic focusSectorial focusLaunch and status
Security and Justice Partnership [TEI-LAC]Latin America and the CaribbeanRule of law, fight against transnational organised crimeLaunched in 2022. Implementation of following phase still pending.
Paraguay – Reducing Inequalities [TEI-Paraguay]ParaguayInclusion of isolated populations through digitalisationLaunched in 2021. Still in design phase. Implementation pending.
Cambodia – Sustainable Landscapes, Forests and Agriculture [TEI-Cambodia]CambodiaSustainable use of natural resources, sustainable agriculture, landscape restoration andLaunched in 2022. Under consultations with the newly appointed government.
Manufacturing and Access to Vaccines, Medicines and Health Technologies [TEI-MAV+]AfricaStrengthening local pharmaceutical and manufacturing capacitiesLaunched in 2021. In implementation.
Armenia – Resilient Syunik [TEI-Armenia]Syunik (Armenia)Increased competitiveness, public services and sustainable development of the Syunik regionLaunched in 2023. In implementation.
Source: the authors

The study’s overall conclusions are as follows:

  • TEIs can increase the collective visibility of the EU’s actions, which creates momentum and attracts interest – which in turn may facilitate the mobilisation of additional resources. While visibility trade-offs to TEI partners differ in relation to the nature and size of their bilateral cooperation portfolios, this does in no way hamper their commitment to and involvement in Team Europe and TEIs. Questions and concerns remain though over the visibility of overarching TEIs as compared to their component parts, as well as to the unclear relationship to other EU strategic frameworks including Global Gateway.
  • Concerning effectiveness and development impact, this study picked up promising signs concerning the plausibility of the positive contribution of TEIs to the collective impact of EU external action. In this context, flexibility seems to be key for TEIs to achieve quick results and maintain their relevance over time. Even if TEIs largely or exclusively consist of existing and ongoing projects and programmes in a given thematic or geographic context, appropriate governance structures may help to capitalise on their interrelationships. Challenges that were identified concern lack of clarity on the intended reach of TEIs’ goals, funding, timelines, or long-term operational (and added) value. Such lack of clarity in turn hampers monitoring and evaluation, as well as result-orientation more generally.
  • On the issue of ownership, this study concludes that the fact that TEIs start as ‘European initiatives’ and articulate at the starting point a European cooperation agenda does not mean that they by definition cannot promote and be supported by broad-based ownership over time. While this study focused on a limited number of TEIs, it is noteworthy that those TEIs considered most successful were those where dedicated efforts were made to respond to and give space for the interests and priorities of the EU’s partner country governments. Last but not least, all TEIs still show considerable room for improvement in terms of promoting the direct participation of local partners, CSOs, private companies, regional networks and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Finally, the analysis of the fourth dimension of harmonization, joint planning and integration identifies the benefits of responsive governance arrangements and dedicated efforts to strengthen the inclusiveness of TEIs in terms of the number of member states involved in them. Co-financing of shared interventions is also considered to be a key expression of the increased cooperation among European actors in the context of TEIs. When seeking to strengthen inclusiveness of TEIs, a differentiated approach is needed in view of the strong costs in terms of time and human resources that full participation in particularly the larger regional TEIs requires. Further specification of the overarching goals of TEIs in terms of promoting ‘working better together’ may also consider assessments of the existing processes and procedures that have been put in place over the years to enable the co-financing of activities between the EU and its member states.

The study presents a series of recommendations to those involved in policy discussions about Team Europe and in the further conceptualisation and realisation of TEIs. These recommendations have been clustered in relation to five key overarching policy concerns for Team Europe that were identified by participants at an informal seminar convened by the Spanish Permanent Representation to the European Union institutions on the 2nd of October 2023. Said policy concerns relate to:

  • Clarifying and specifying the objectives of TEIs and Team Europe more broadly.
  • Deepening the operational framework and working modalities of TEIs.
  • Strengthening the inclusivity of TEIs.
  • Striking the balance between streamlining and local adaptation of TEIs.
  • Promoting broad-based ownership of TEIs.

[1] This study has been conducted with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, and it is the result of the joint effort between two European think tanks: the Elcano Royal Institute and the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS).

Image: Flags of the European Union in the financial district of La Défense in Paris, France. Photo: ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND (@alexandrelallemand).