2012 was another challenging year for EU Member States and citizens as economic recovery was slow and investment funds scarce. The 2012 budget therefore constituted a solid source of investment, helped create jobs across Europe, especially for young people, and contributed to economic recovery by helping Member States grappling with fiscal consolidation. Indeed, although the EU budget is small (about 1 % of the EU’s gross national income), it has an enormous potential of leverage (with EUR 1 from the EU budget meaning up to EUR 30 for the beneficiary).
This was the sixth annual budget of the current multiannual financial framework (2007–13), which meant that most of the long-term EU-funded projects across Europe (infrastructure, medical research etc.) were nearing completion. This understandably generated a big increase in claims for payments from Member States that had initially borne the costs of those projects. Bearing in mind that past commitments must be respected, I was concerned when the Council and the European Parliament set the 2012 payments well below the Commission’s estimates, despite the fact that shortages of funds had already been experienced in 2011. As a consequence, by October 2012 several EU programmes were running out of funding.
To meet the needs of EU beneficiaries, the Commission requested an extra EUR 9 billion, but only EUR 6.1 billion was approved by the Council and the Parliament. This continuous backlog of payments undermines the sustainable investment policy needed for the European economy in these hard times. Europe’s towns and regions, students, researchers, NGOs, SMEs and other beneficiaries need the predictability offered by the EU budget; that is why the Commission will continue its efforts to secure funds needed to avoid the risk of delaying projects.
The year 2012 was also important for the future of the Union, as the negotiations on the next financial framework, for 2014–20, were in full swing. The EU’s leaders achieved progress at their November meeting, which allowed the agreement between the institutions to be finalised in the course of 2013, and prepares for the timely launch of the new programmes on 1 January 2014.
We were also busy with the successful revision and simplification of access to EU funds. The funds are meant for those who need them, not for those who are experts in red tape. From 1 January 2013, EU beneficiaries have easier access to EU funds thanks to the new financial regulation and its rules of application.
I therefore invite you to take a closer look at this annual report, to find out where European taxpayers’ money was invested and what sort of benefits it brought them. This report will also help the reader to understand the complex maze of budgetary procedures and challenges of management. Last but not least, it provides a comprehensive set of figures per area of spending and per Member State, as well as other detailed and useful statistics.
Member of the European Commission, Financial Programming and Budget