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Structure of the EU budget

The EU budget is published in 2 volumes in all official EU languages. See also EU budget online.

Overall structure of the EU budget

The budget consists of:

  • General revenue
  • Revenue and expenditure by section:
    • Section I – Parliament
    • Section II – European Council and Council
    • Section III – Commission
    • Section IV – Court of Justice
    • Section V – Court of Auditors
    • Section VI – Economic and Social Committee
    • Section VII – Committee of the Regions
    • Section VIII – European Ombudsman
    • Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor
    • Section X – European External Action Service

The vast majority – 95% of the EU budget – goes to fund concrete activities on the ground in the many areas of EU policy. This expenditure ("operational appropriations") is paid out by the Commission (Section III).

However, section III also includes a small amount of administrative expenditure necessary for the Commission to function.

All the other sections of the budget deal solely with the administrative expenditure of the institutions.

How is the Commission budget (Section III) structured?

The Commission budget is broken down into into some 30 policy areas or by activity areas, in what is known as 'activity-based budgeting' (ABB). See e.g. the General Budget 2011.

The policy areas (research, employment, etc.) are closely related to the headings in the financial framework (sustainable growth, preservation and management of natural resources etc.).

The budget is divided into:

  • titles – one for each policy area
  • chapters – one for each activity
  • articles – which may be further broken down into items.


  • Title 04 — Employment and social affairs
    • Chapter 04 03 — Working in EuropeSocial dialogue and mobility
      • Article 04 03 05 — Free movement of workers, coordination of social security systems and measures for migrants, including migrants from third countries.

Thanks to this nomenclature system of one activity per chapter, the link between policies and the financial resources they require is clear, and the cost of each policy can be estimated from the budget.

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