At some €137 billion (2017 figure), the EU budget is in fact smaller than the budgets of Austria or Belgium.
This is a tiny fraction (2%) of the combined national budgets of all 28 EU countries (€7 022 billion)
And a contrast
Unlike national budgets, which are mainly used to provide public services and fund social security systems, the EU budget is primarily used for investment.
The average EU citizen pays €187 per year towards the EU budget (2017 figures) – less than the price of an average cup of coffee per day.
The EU's administrative staff is relatively small:
The EU spends around 6% of its annual budget on administration. This includes staff salaries and pensions, schools for children of staff members, buildings, etc.
This type of spending is unavoidable if the EU institutions are to function effectively.
Yes – they pay taxes of between 8% and 45% on their salaries.
They also pay a special levy of 6-7% which goes back into the EU budget and is effectively returned to EU governments in the form of funding for projects.
EU Commissioners pay almost 45% of their salary on taxes.
EU staff members pay some of the highest pension contributions in the EU compared to civil servants in some Member States (10.0% of gross basic salary).
Civil servants in Germany, Bulgaria, Estonia and Sweden, for example, do not pay any pension contributions at all.
The European Court of Auditors has given a clean bill of health to the EU accounts every year since 2007.
This means every euro the EU spent in the last 11 years was recorded in the books and accounted for.
When it comes to legality and regularity of payments made to recipients of EU funds, the Court considers a 2% error rate as the level below which errors are not regarded as having a significant effect (the "material level of error").
The EU Commission – which manages the bulk of EU spending – has managed to bring the error rate down in recent years, achieving 2.4% in 2017 (3.1% in 2016, 3.8% in 2015 and 4.4% in 2014). This means more than €97 of every €100 spent by the EU was free from error.
This is not yet good enough to get the Court of Auditors’ full approval. But this just shows what exceptionally high standards of management and control are applied to taxpayers’ money at the EU level.
Since almost 75% of EU spending is managed jointly by both the EU Commission and EU governments, those governments share the responsibility for minimising errors. The Commission is working closely with them to ensure money is spent effectively and efficiently.
For its part, if the Commission detects that EU money has been spent incorrectly, it takes action. In 2017, for example, on funds disbursed to recipients across the EU and beyond €2.8 billion in funding was either recovered by the Commission or redirected to other projects.
Errors in EU spending are usually administrative mistakes where spending rules have not been followed correctly, for example when documents are missing. This is not fraud, and these errors usually do not undermine the end result of a project.
The Commission and the European Court of Auditors report all suspicions of fraud with EU money to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). These are only very few cases per year, out of several hundred the European Court of Auditors looks at annually.
The Commission is serious about ensuring that the EU budget is focused on priorities and well spent.
Projects are selected, depending on the case, either directly by the Commission or by national and regional authorities in EU countries, third countries, other international organisations etc… to meet local needs, in line with strategies and priorities they have agreed in advance with the Commission.
In the past, the focus has often been on simply using the funds and playing by the rules. Now the focus is put more and more on performance. Today, demand for EU funding is rising and in many Member States the EU budget is a key source of investments. The pressure is greater than ever to make sure EU money is spent well. A euro spent through the European budget must be worth more to our citizens than a euro spent at national level. The EU budget has to demonstrate added value.
No – the Commission has never proposed this. National governments and local authorities are and will continue to be in charge of setting and collecting taxes.
It is true that the EU is currently looking at some possible new ways of financing the EU budget, some of which could include, for example, revenue from companies’ taxable profits.
But none of these could be approved without unanimous agreement by all EU governments and parliaments.
In 2017, the share of EU spending on farming was 41%. In 1985, 70% was spent on farming.
Over the past decade, 13 countries — most of them with large farming sectors — have joined the EU. However, the Common agricultural policy budget has not risen to cover these extra costs. In fact, spending continues to fall. For 2021-2027, the Commission proposed less than 30% of the EU budget on agriculture.
Farming’s relatively large share of the EU budget is entirely justified; it is the only policy funded almost entirely from the common budget. This means that EU spending replaces national expenditure to a large extent.
This is a misconception. EU funding for regional and social development is an important source for key investment projects.
In some EU countries that have otherwise limited means, European funding finances up to 80% of public investment.
However, EU regional spending does not just help poorer regions. It invests in every EU country, boosting the economy of the EU as a whole.
It is estimated that the return on investment by 2023 will be €2.74 for every €1 invested between 2007 and 2013 — that’s a 274% return.
For 2014-20, the EU allocated over €480 billion to regional spending. This should result in:
In response to the refugee crisis and increased challenges of migration, EU funding has more than doubled to over €22 billion from the original allocation of €9.6 billion for 2015-18.
Thanks to this money, the EU is able to develop immediate and longer-term measures to process and accommodate migrants and invest in regions outside the EU to reduce migration flows.
Yes – through the Youth Employment Initiative, which has a budget of €8.8 billion for 2014-20.
It helps young people who are unemployed and not in education or training, ensuring that in parts of Europe where the challenges are most acute, young people receive the targeted support they need.
Typically, it funds apprenticeships/traineeships/job placements and further education.
How much each country pays depends on the size of its economy. In 2017, 11 of the 28 EU countries – the richest – paid more into the EU budget than they received back in EU funding.
However, in return for their larger contribution, these countries also enjoy the many benefits that this money provides for all EU countries – peace and stability both within and around the EU, security, better infrastructure and the freedom to live, work, study and travel anywhere in the bloc.
And money spent in one EU country can also benefit another country. For example, funding to protect the EU's external borders goes only to countries that border non-member countries (e.g. Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Greece). But this clearly benefits other countries too.
All EU citizens and many in other parts of the world benefit directly or indirectly from the budget.
It helps millions of students, thousands of researchers and many cities, regions and non-profit organisations. Some examples:
To search and apply for funding opportunities, go to our Funding and tender opportunities portal.
More indirectly, the budget contributes to:
The EU is working hard to simplify the rules on funding, and has recently approved measures that will ensure:
The EU budget is based on the idea that in some areas a euro spent by the EU is worth more for the common European good than a euro spent nationally.