2015 was a year of many challenges for the European Union. Even as we continued to record the signs of recovery getting underway, we were also still dealing with and feeling the effects of the economic crisis. This had a strong impact on a number of countries, most dramatically Greece. At the same time we were coping with an unprecedented influx of refugees and a deadly wave of terrorist attacks, notably in France. We were therefore called upon to stretch our budgetary resources to their limit to meet new challenges and continue to invest in our key policies and priorities.
The migration pressure on our borders and across our Union has demonstrated that no country can nor should face this kind of situation alone. Our strength lies in pooling our resources and coordinating how we respond. In 2015 the Commission launched and began to implement the European Agenda for Migration. We set out a plan to combat illegal migration, save lives and secure the external borders of the EU. It will support the integration of refugees, address the root causes of displacement in migrants' countries of origin and offer assistance to countries through which they transit. We supported this plan with EU funding which doubles the budget for our internal and external response to more than EUR 10 billion in 2015 and 2016.
Unemployment remained very high and investment very low in 2015, so it was of the greatest importance that we maximised the contribution of the EU budget to boosting jobs, growth and competitiveness. The European Fund for Strategic Investments was established in 2015, and triggered investment of more than EUR 100 billion during its first year of operation. The EU budget helped farmers, reduced regional disparities and provided additional liquidity to support financial stability in Greece. Significant progress was made in moving towards an Energy Union, Capital Markets Union and a Digital Single Market – all of which will help to achieve growth.
The challenges facing us have increased but the EU budget has not. As a result of strict monitoring on spending, combined with a flexible approach and positive developments on the revenue side, we managed to meet the additional financial needs without calling on our Member States to provide more money. The annual budget was fully implemented and the so-called ‘backlog’ of unpaid bills from the past was absorbed. In order to ensure that every euro of taxpayers’ money delivers maximum benefits on the ground, we launched the 'Budget Focused on Results' initiative.
Faced with diverse risks and pressures we need a budget which is sufficiently agile to be able to respond to the circumstances. The world we live in has changed. It is more fragile and prone to shocks – economic, natural and man-made disasters or conflicts - which feed extremism and insecurity. We cannot afford to be unprepared, neither in terms of policy choices nor when it comes to our financial programming.
The mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework presents us with the opportunity to see where we need to adjust and improve, taking into account the experience gleaned from the first years of the current cycle. We must be ambitious, pragmatic and flexible. We must keep doing more with less and doing it even better. More than 500 million Europeans rely on us to invest their money in ensuring their security and prosperity. We will continue to work together on delivering a better tomorrow.
Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources, European Commission