Special instruments

Special instruments enable the EU to mobilise the necessary funds to react to unforeseen events such as crisis and emergency situations. Their scope, financial allocation and operating modalities are provided for in the MFF regulation and the Interinstitutional Agreement. They also ensure that budgetary resources can respond to evolving priorities, so that every euro is spent where it is most needed. Most of the flexibility mechanisms are therefore kept outside the MFF and the funding can be mobilised above the expenditure ceilings.

Taking into account past experience, the scope for intervention for some special instruments, such as the Emergency Aid Reserve was broadened, the maximum allocation was increased and the carrying over of unused amounts to the following year(s) was allowed.

Emergency Aid Reserve

maximum €280 million per year
The Emergency Aid Reserve was designed to finance humanitarian, civilian crisis management and protection operations in non-EU countries in order to quickly respond to unforeseen events. For example, the Emergency Aid Reserve was mobilised in 2017 and 2018 to provide funding for healthcare, nutrition and food security, sanitation and water in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

European Union Solidarity Fund

maximum €500 million per year
The EU Solidarity Fund released emergency financial aid following a major disaster in a Member State or candidate country, such as forest fires in Spain and Portugal and floods in Lithuania in 2018. Aid was managed by the recipient country, and used to rebuild basic infrastructure, fund emergency services, temporary accommodation or clean-up operations, or counter immediate health risks.

Flexibility instrument

maximum €600 million per year
The Flexibility instrument provided funding for clearly identified expenditure that could not be covered by the EU budget without exceeding the maximum annual amount for expenditure set out in the MFF. The amount of the Flexibility Instrument could be increased yearly by unused annual amounts of the European Union Solidarity Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

The Flexibility instrument was mobilised frequently during the 2014-2020 period, mainly to finance immediate budgetary measures to address the ongoing challenges of migration and security threats.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

maximum €150 million per year
The European Globalisation Fund helped workers reintegrate into the labour market after they were made redundant as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns (e.g. as a consequence of the global financial and economic crisis). For example, it supported Belgian workers after Caterpillar Gosselies closed down.


In addition to these existing instruments, new flexibility measures were introduced in the MFF 2014-2020.

Flexibility for payments

Under certain conditions and within the overall ceilings set in the MFF, unused payment appropriations and margins could be carried over from one financial year to the next. The payment ceiling of the years in which the unused margins arose had to be cut accordingly in order to leave the overall ceiling unchanged.

Global margin for commitments in growth and employment, in particular youth employment, and for migration and security measures

Commitment appropriations left unused could form a reserve for additional expenditure in 2016-20 in the area of growth and employment (in particular for youth employment) and for migration and security.

Contingency Margin

This was a last resort instrument to react to unforeseen circumstances, amounting to 0.03 % of the EU's gross national income (GNI).

Mid-term review

To ensure that the 2014-2020 EU long-term budget, approved in 2013, responded to the evolving challenges, a mandatory mid-term review was carried out in 2016.

In parallel, a revision of the financing of a number of sectorial proposals was carried out:

  • A proposal for amending the EFSI Regulation (2015/1017) with the purpose of extending the EFSI;
  • A proposal for a Regulation on the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD);
  • A proposal for a Regulation on the Guarantee Fund for external actions;
  • A proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the EU guarantee to the European Investment Bank against losses under financing operations supporting investment projects outside the Union.

The revision entered into force in 2017.

Mid-term Review/Revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020

The documents related to the mid-term review of the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) entered into force in 2017.