In accordance with point 75 of the conclusions of the 1999 European Council in Berlin: ‘When referring to budgetary imbalances, the Commission, for presentational purposes, will base itself on operating expenditure.’
It is not the actual ‘national contribution’ of Member States that is used for the calculation of operating budgetary balances. Total ‘national contributions’ are adjusted to equal total EU allocated operating expenditure, so that operating budgetary balances sum to zero. Traditional Own Resources (TOR) are not included in the calculation of net balances since TORs are a direct result of the application of common policies such as the common agricultural policy and the customs union. They are therefore considered to be pure EU revenue rather than national contributions. Furthermore, the economic agent bearing the burden of the customs duty imposed is not always a resident of the Member State collecting the duty.
By construction, in the calculation any expenditure from the EU budget appears to benefit one single Member State, even if in the reality it benefits several or all Member States. The calculation of the balances ignore non-budgetary socio-economic benefits like a level-playing field for all economic actors, or synergies and economies of scale resulting from European cooperation instead of financing 27 separate policies or programmes. The leverage effect of loans or other financial instruments guaranteed by the EU budget is not visible either. Furthermore, the balances do not capture the significant positive impact of the Single Market on jobs and growth in all Member States.