The European Commission has released its annual financial report which describes how the 2011 budgetary cycle was managed. The financial report provides detailed information on the sources of EU financing and gives a basic overview of EU expenditure. "The report's main aim is to provide a transparent account of the Union's financial matters. For the first time ever, this year the publication comes in an e-version with interactive tables, making it possible to compare data across a wide range of criteria. I hope this will help readers digest the financial information more easily and enable them to get new insights into the EU budget", says the Commissioner responsible for Budget Janusz Lewandowski.
In its first part, the EU Budget 2011 Financial Report offers a brief overview of the EU's annual budget procedure, which for the first time followed the new procedure adopted in the Lisbon Treaty in full. The statistics show, for instance, that the Commission executed close to two million payments through Member States' treasuries, as well as central and commercial banks.
The Report confirms that the 2011 EU budget was in line with the Europe 2020 objectives of a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as more than half of the EUR 126 billion was directed towards investments in research and development, trans-European networks, supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and ensuring lifelong learning for Europe's citizens. Germany, France, UK and Belgium were the biggest recipients of EU support in these areas.
The financial data also confirms the importance of the cohesion policy, aimed at reducing disparities between European regions, as it has seen record budget execution rates in key areas: the Cohesion fund reached a 100 per cent execution rate (or EUR 5.5 billion), while the European Regional Development Fund reached a record of EUR 24.3 billion in payments, EUR 4 billion more than in 2010. The top beneficiaries were Poland, Spain, Hungary, Germany and Greece.
44% of the EU Budget supported Europe's agriculture and rural areas. France benefited the most, followed by Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK.
The EU budget for security, the protection of life, freedom and property of citizens on the one hand, and consumer and civil protection, health and culture on the other has seen an increase of about 30% compared to 2010.
6% of the 2011 EU budget financed EU activities beyond its borders to ensure stability, security and prosperity in its neighbourhood. Only 6% of the EU budget went on ensuring the functioning of the EU institutions, which serve approximately 500 million European citizens.
The Report traditionally presents the so-called operating budgetary balances of Member States. "Although this data may provide some statistical comparison of Member States' net balances vis-a-vis the EU budget, it would be misleading and wrong to evaluate the benefits of EU membership purely on the basis of this data", says Janusz Lewandowski. "For example, when a company from one Member State (e.g. the Czech Republic) is paid for a project financed from EU funds in another Member State (e.g. Bulgaria), the statistical methods used by the Commission attribute all the money to Bulgaria, while it is obvious that the Czech Republic also benefits from this amount."