2013 was another challenging year for EU citizens and Member States alike, because of the difficult economic context and pressure on budgets. Therefore, the priorities of the 2013 EU budget were economic growth and job creation. The 2013 EU budget complemented national efforts in helping the EU to achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, i.e. creating smart, sustainable, inclusive growth.
The 2013 budget ended the 2007-13 multiannual financial framework on a high note. It is particularly in the times of economic difficulties that EU funding demonstrates its extraordinary added value. The EU budget helped make Europe truly visible in all 28 Member States via thousands of EU-funded projects, which continue to improve the well-being of European citizens. Almost €900 billion was spent during this period, helping all 500 million European citizens in one way or another, and many millions of others outside Europe. Students, businesses, researchers, NGOs, artists all got the financial support from the EU budget, which also contributed to healthier and safer food, consumer protection, a better environment, education, cultural exchanges, innovation, new and better infrastructure, regional development, peace as well as the fight against poverty. It is no coincidence that the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
Getting the funding for such large-scale investment in 2013 was not an easy task. An enormous effort was needed in order to get the necessary resources, while respecting earlier obligations. Many long-term EU-funded projects were completed throughout 2013, meaning that claims for payments increased more sharply than previously expected. Crucially, €11.2 billion more was committed in order to reduce the risk of rolling over unpaid bills onto 2014.
Meanwhile, by simplifying its rules, the EU has made life easier for millions of EU budget beneficiaries, among them countless smaller ones which had been complaining – quite rightly – about too much red tape and complicated procedures. Just an example of one of those EU achievements you won't hear about in the news, even though they make a massive difference to so many across the EU. And because simpler rules are better controlled, they boost both the quality of financial management as well as the efficiency of EU budget.
There is no doubt that the biggest challenge of 2013 was to design, defend and eventually adopt the 2014-20 multiannual financial framework, following arguably the toughest and longest negotiations in EU history. And while this process was overshadowed by the effects of the crisis, despite the climate of austerity we have managed to modernise our budget, reinforcing research (by 37% per cent!), student exchanges (Erasmus+) and projects for SMEs. The new Connecting Europe Facility and the Youth Employment Initiative designed to combat youth unemployment have also been launched. The new financial framework provides a much-needed long-term vision for Europe, securing financial peace in Europe for 7 years – an element of stability and predictability which is a value in itself amidst so many unknowns of Europe today!
As the newly appointed Commissioner responsible for the EU budget, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and admiration for the achievements of my predecessor, Janusz Lewandowski. Thanks to his tireless efforts over the past four years, and despite the difficult circumstances, the EU budget continues to serve as an important platform facilitating economic growth in Europe. I am confident I will make my own modest contribution to the budget portfolio, taking on the challenges that lie ahead – with less money, but with the same efficiency and dedication.
The European elections demonstrated a rise in Eurosceptic and extreme sentiments, in contradiction to the ideas of solidarity and shared responsibility, as well as spreading peace and prosperity across Europe. Let us be strong together and offer European citizens, enterprises and regions the funding they need to go ahead. Thank you for taking the time to read the 2013 financial report, which gives an overview of the many achievements over the past years within the 2007-13 multiannual financial framework. I am convinced that behind the figures you will see the positive impact the EU budget had on the lives of millions of people.