The 2014 EU budget is the first budget implemented under the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. It came in a still difficult economic and financial environment: while there were some encouraging signs of post-crisis recovery, growth remained slow to pick up. In this context and with ongoing restraint in public spending, the EU budget remains an indispensable source of funding for most Member States – in many cases, the main source of investment. The EU’s main objective is therefore to emphasise growth, jobs and competitiveness.
The 2014 EU budget set out EUR 143 billion in commitment appropriations, representing around 1 % of EU gross national income (GNI). For the first time in EU history, the budget agreed by the European Parliament and EU Member States was lower than the previous year’s. This came despite the fact that the number of Member States had significantly increased during the two previous programming periods (2000 – 2006 and 2007-2013), and that the EU had continued taking on duties and competences. The EU is asked to do more with less, which requires setting clear priorities for its budget.
Over 90 % of total commitments in 2014 are invested directly in Member States. Funding is allocated to thousands of projects, supporting regions and cities, businesses, small and medium enterprises, researchers and students. The budget contributes to building better transport, energy and digital infrastructure, protecting the environment, improving education and training, stimulating innovation, and increasing social cohesion. EU funds help make Europe more competitive, better connected, less energy dependent and better adapted to the digital age. Addressing the unprecedented level of youth unemployment in the EU also remains a key priority. And with conflicts and crises in our neighbourhood, we have to deal with a growing refugee crisis by showing solidarity with those seeking refuge and solidarity amongst Member States. The EU also uses its financial clout to maintain and further develop its role as a strong global actor, including remaining collectively the world's largest aid donor.
Most of the payments made to Member States in 2014 related to programmes from the previous programming period. The new programmes from the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework largely began being implemented in late 2014. They are subject to new rules that put an even stronger emphasis on results. For instance, the conditions placed on EU funding allocated under cohesion policy mean that only projects that can demonstrate real potential to achieve tangible and measurable social or economic effects will now receive funding.
Before I took over in the new Commission, three EU commissioners were responsible at one point or another for the EU budget in 2014. So I would like to thank my predecessors Janusz Lewandowski, Andris Piebalgs and Yacek Dominik for their hard work. Through their management of the budget, they ensured effective planning, results-focused spending and increased transparency and accountability.
As Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the EU budget, I will ensure that the financial resources of the Union are used in the best possible way for the benefit of the European people. That includes using the budget to unlock further investment. In late 2014, Commission President Juncker presented an ambitious Investment Plan for Europe, designed to revive the EU economy by mobilising at least EUR 315 billion of public and private capital over the next three years. The EU budget provides the guarantee for the European Fund for Strategic Investments that is the cornerstone of the plan. Furthermore, the Commission’s intention is to align EU budget funding with the priorities set for this fund, to ensure that this initiative delivers significant results in terms of economic growth, competitiveness, job creation and the wellbeing of EU citizens.
Over the course of the year, the EU also continued simplifying its procedures and reducing red tape in order to make it easier to access EU funding, while ensuring full transparency and accountability. In times when finances are stretched, the EU must spend responsibly and be able to demonstrate clearly to taxpayers that their money is making a real difference. The EU budget must be more focused on results.
Having faced the worst financial and economic crisis since its founding, the EU is on the right track to restoring its economic strength, financial stability and high level of social responsibility. The EU budget is for all of the more than 500 million EU citizens. Its positive effects are visible for all to see, in every corner of Europe and beyond.
Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources, European Commission