- How can I get funding?
- How can I find out who gets EU grants and how much is paid out?
- How much money does my country contribute and get back?
- How much do I have to pay the EU?
- Where does the money go?
- How much is spent on administration?
- Is the Commission politically accountable for the management of the budget?
- Who's in charge of the money that's spent?
- Is it true that most of the EU budget goes to farmers?
- Is the budget really decided by Eurocrats without any democratic procedures?
- What is the EU doing to ensure that future budgets don't explode and that they are focused on real priorities?
- How much has it cost to have new countries join the EU?
- Where can I find figures for past budgets?
- How will the Lisbon treaty affect the EU budget?
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In 2007 the EU has launched a new set of programmes: up to €975 billion over a seven-year period.
There is a widespread idea that the Commission's finances are not transparent to the general public. It's not true! The Financial Transparency System website is dedicated to providing the general public with information on who receives EU funding managed by the European Commission.
Since 2007 the Financial Transparency System has provided information on all grants and contracts awarded by the European Commission. It does not deal with money managed by other authorities (e.g. authorities in EU and non-EU countries and international organisations).
The EU budget focuses on the needs of Europeans as a whole – it is not designed to redistribute wealth. It builds important infrastructures (sewage treatment plants, road and rail networks, etc.) and provides funding for projects in areas such as research, training and agriculture.
The financial contributions made by EU countries to the EU budget are fairly distributed. Each country contributes a percentage of its VAT, and 1% of its gross national income (GNI).
The EU budget also has other income ('own resources').
More : Annual financial report.
EU citizens do not directly contribute to the EU's finances.
In addition to contributions from EU countries (see Question 3), there are two other types of income:
- customs duties paid on imports from outside the EU
- money that was not spent the previous year and income from taxes paid by EU staff, fines on companies that break competition rules, etc.
All of this adds up to the around EUR 0.64 per day for each one of the 500 million people living in the EU.
The EU budget provides financing for a number of key policies, which are divided into seven broad policy areas ('headings').
Each year, through a democratic decision making process, the Council and the European Parliament decide exactly how much to spend on each of these policy areas.
En savoir plus : Where does the money go?
Many people wrongly believe that most of the EU budget is spent on administration. In reality, administrative costs are only a small part of the overall budget. They have been stable over the past years and serious efforts are made to keep them low. In 2010 the EU's administrative expenses were about EUR 7.9 billion, which is around 6% of the total EU budget.
Yes. The Commission is accountable to the European Parliament.
The European Parliament votes on whether to approve the accounts and makes recommendations on how to improve the management of the budget. The Commission must act on any recommendations the Parliament makes.
Every year, the EU accounts are published and sent for an external audit by the European Court of Auditors. In previous years the Court has given a clean bill of health to the EU accounts. This means it confirms that the accounts have not been tampered with and that they correctly reflect how the EU budget was spent. The Court of Auditors also examines the processing of payments – whether they have been paid on time, whether the correct amounts were paid, etc. The Court will only approve the accounts when the risk of error is 2% or lower.
The Commission is not the only body involved in managing EU expenses. There are two main types of management:
- most EU funds are spent under "shared management" – authorities in EU member countries manage the payments to beneficiaries on behalf of the Commission;
- a small amount is spent under the sole management of the Commission.
The rest, some 2% of the budget, is managed by non-EU countries and international organisations.
EU policies have seen huge changes in the last two decades.
In 1985 around 70% of the budget was spent on agriculture. In the first year of the 1988-1992 financial framework it still represented around 60% of the budget.
By 2013 the proportion of the budget spent on agricultural will have almost halved compared to the late 1980s. Successive reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have moved support away from production to direct income support for farmers (provided they respect certain health and environmental standards) and projects to stimulate economic activity in rural areas. So the CAP is constantly developing.
This is a widespread idea – but it's not true!
Decision making in the EU budgetary procedure follows strict democratic procedures, which are similar to those of most national governments:
- The initial proposal for the annual budget comes from the Commission.
- The budget is examined and agreed by the Council of Ministers of the EU (representing EU member countries) and the European Parliament.
- A final agreement is reached in December each year.
What is the EU doing to ensure that future budgets don't explode and that they are focused on real priorities?
An 'Interinstitutional Agreement' between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament provides for a long-term financial planning tool, which is called the 'multiannual financial framework'. The current framework covers the years 2007 to 2013.
Maximum amounts ('ceilings') for spending are set for each broad priority area ('headings') for the years covered by the framework.
The multiannual financial framework defines the long-term political priorities of the EU and sets annual maximum amounts to be spent on each priority. These amounts have to be respected in the annual budget. The multiannual financial framework is now compulsory under the Lisbon Treaty. Each multiannual financial framework covers at least five years. After the European Parliament agrees to a framework, it is made legally binding by being adopted as a Regulation by the Council (EU countries). The members of the Council must agree to it unanimously. Once the framework has been set, the Commission proposes an annual budget in line with the framework, and this budget proposal is then adopted by the Council and the European Parliament.
More : Where does the money go?
EUR 22 billion were spent on enlargement between 1989 and the last wave of accession in 2004. This support from the EU helped rebuild social and economic structures in the new Member States during the pre-accession stage. For more details on pre-accession and post-accession expenditure see More details on recent EU enlargment spending.
More on pre- and post-accession : From Estonia to Romania - The biggest enlargement in EU history
Figures on EU revenue and expenditure dating back to 2000 can be found in the tables annexed to the annual financial report 2008
Budgets since 2003 are available in electronic format from the Budget online website.
For official documents on adopted budgets, see the relevant issues of the Official Journal (OJ) in the EUR-lex online database:
- go to 'simple search'
- type in a key word, e.g. budget, amending budget, general budget, amending letter.
- see also "Official Journal references for the EU Budgets" : OJ nr as from 1998
Only documents from 1998 onwards are available on this site. To access documents from before 1998, please consult the EU Publications Office.
The European Court of Auditors publishes an annual report on budget implementation (use the search box at the bottom of the page to access previous editions).
The Treaty of Lisbon does not affect countries' contributions to the EU budget.
However, there have been important changes to budgetary procedures:
- Members of the European Parliament, whom you directly elect, have an even stronger role in decision making – they now have influence in all categories of expenditure.
- The Commission now has to show what steps it has taken each year in response to recommendations for improvements made by European Parliament when it approved the previous accounts.
- The multiannual financial framework – which sets the maximum amounts to be spent on each of the budget's priority areas (and so is one of the cornerstones of the EU's financial discipline) – is now legally binding.