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EU budget

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EU budget

European Union
Flag of the European Union

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government
of the European Union

The European Union has a budget to pay for policies carried out at European level (such as agriculture, assistance to poorer regions, trans-European networks, research, some overseas development aid) and for its administration, including a parliament, executive branch, and judiciary that are distinct from those of the member states. These arms administer the application of treaties, laws and agreements between the member states and their expenditure on common policies throughout the Union. Some 5% of expenditure is on administration, 95% on policies.

To pay for this, the EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013,[1] representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods.

Setting a budget

The European Union has three main elements to its government: the Council of the European Union, with ministers from each Member State; the European Commission, as the EU's day-to-day executive and administration; and the European Parliament directly elected by citizens. In addition, other institutions and bodies, such as the European Court of Justice are funded from the budget.

The annual budget is adopted by a procedure involving a proposal from the European Commission, which must be adopted (usually after amendment) by the European Parliament and the Council. It must remain within ceilings determined in advance by the Multiannual Financial Framework, laid down for a seven-year period by the Council (requiring the unanimous approval of every Member State) with the assent of the Parliament.

The budget for a year is determined in advance, but final calculations of payments required from each member state are not completed until after the budget year is over and information about revenue and expenditure is available. The UK rebate is one of the last elements of the budget to be calculated (though it is estimated in advance) as it depends upon the balance of all EU revenue to and from the UK.

Court of Auditors

The European Court of Auditors is the fifth institution of the European Union (EU). It was established in 1975 in Luxembourg to audit the accounts of EU institutions.

Despite its name, the court has no judicial functions. It is rather a professional external investigatory audit agency. The primary role of the court is to externally check if the budget of the European Union has been implemented correctly, in that EU funds have been spent legally and with sound management. In doing so, the court checks the paperwork of all persons handling any income or expenditure of the union and carries out spot checks. The court is bound to report any problems in the court's reports for the attention of other states and institutions, these reports include its general annual report as well as specific and special reports on certain bodies and issues.[2] The court's decision is the basis for the European Commission decisions, for example: when the court found problems in the management of EU funds in the regions of England, the commission suspended funds to those regions and prepared to fine those who did not come back up to acceptable standards.[3]

In this role the court has to remain independent yet remain in touch with the other institutions, for example a key role is the presentation of the court's annual report to the European Parliament. It is based on this report that the parliament makes its decision on whether or not to sign off the European Commission's handling of the budget for that year. The court, if satisfied, also sends assurances to the council and parliament that the taxpayers money is being properly used and the court must be consulted before the adoption of any legislation with financial implications but the opinion is never binding.[2]

Revenues and expenditure


The EU obtains most of its revenue indirectly by payments from treasuries of member states. Revenue is divided into four categories.

Traditional own resources

Traditional own resources[5] are taxes raised on behalf of the EU as a whole, principally import duties on goods brought into the EU. These are collected by the state where import occurs and passed on to the EU. States are allowed to keep a proportion of the revenue to cover administration (25%). The European Commission operates a system of inspectors to investigate the collection of these taxes in member states and ensure compliance with the rules. The effect of a state failing to collect these taxes is that other states will have to contribute more to the budget, so there is a potential conflict of interest on the part of the collecting authorities. Countries are liable to make good any loss of revenue due to their own administrative failure.[5]

VAT based own resources

VAT based own resources[5] are taxes on EU citizens derived as a proportion of VAT levied in each member country. VAT rates and exemptions vary in different countries, so a formula is used to create the 'harmonised tax base', upon which the EU charge is levied. The starting point for calculations is the total VAT raised in a country. This is then adjusted using a weighted average of VAT rates applying in that country, producing the intermediate tax base. Further adjustments are made where there is a derogation from the VAT directive allowing certain goods to be zero-rated. The tax base is capped, such that it may not be greater than 50% of a country's Gross national income (GNI).

The EU applies a call-up rate to the tax base, generally of 0.33%, but this is varied for some countries. For 2007–2013 the rate proposed for Austria is 0.225%, and Germany 0.15%, the Netherlands and Sweden 0.1%. Countries are required to make an account of VAT revenues to the EU before July after the end of the budget year. The EU examines the submission for accuracy, including control visits by officials from the Directorate-General for Budget and Directorate-General for Taxation, and reports back to the country concerned.

The country may then respond to any issues raised in the report, and negotiations continue until both sides are satisfied, or the matter may be referred to the European Court of Justice for a final ruling. The Advisory committee on own resources, which has representatives from each member state, also receives and discusses the reports. In 2006, nine countries were inspected by controllers, including 5 new member states who were participating in the procedure for the first time. It is anticipated that 11 countries will be visited in 2007. The EU may be working on figures for three years at any one time.

GNI based own resources

Eurostat before 22 September following the budget year concerned.

Eurostat carries out information visits to the National Statistical Institutes forming part of the European Statistical System. Based on assessment reports by Eurostat, the Directorate-General for Budget (DG BUDG) of the Commission may notify to the Permanent Representative of the Member State concerned required corrections and improvements in the form of reservations on the country's GNI data. Payments are made monthly by member states to the commission. Own resources payments are made monthly as they are collected, but monthly instalments of VAT and GNI based returns are based upon the budget estimates made for that year, subject to later correction.

Other revenue

Other revenue[5] makes up approximately 1% of the EU budget. This includes interest on deposits or late payments, payments from non-EU organisations, underspent funding from community programs and any other surplus from the previous budget.


Most of the EU budget is used for agricultural and regional support, while the administration only accounts for 6–7%.

In the 2006 budget, the largest single expenditure item was due to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with its direct aid, export refunds, storage and rural development and support and subsidies, which accounted for around 46.7% of the total budget. By 2013, the share of traditional CAP spending is projected to decrease significantly to 32%.

Next in 2006 came the EU's structural funds, which are used to support specific regions in the EU, as part of EU's regional policy, which aims to reduce regional disparities in terms of income, wealth and opportunities. Europe's poorer regions receive most of the support, but all European regions are eligible for funding under the policy's various funds and programmes. In 2006 approximately 30.4% of the EU budget was used for such support. While the CAP spending is going down, the regional support is increasing, and is expected to reach almost 36% in 2013.[7]

Internal policies (training, youth, culture, audiovisual, media, information, energy, Euratom nuclear safeguards and environment, consumer protection, internal market, industry and Trans-European networks, research and technological development, other internal policies) took up around 8.5% in the 2006 budget.

Administration, i.e. the actual running of the EU institutions, including salaries and property costs, accounted for around 6.3% in 2006.

External actions, i.e. EU's international activities outside the EU (development aid, peace keeping and security work, election observers etc.) accounted for 4.9% in 2006.

Finally, the pre-accession strategy, compensations and reserves brought up the rear of the budget, with approximately 2.1%, 1% and 0.1% respectively in 2006.

Net receipts from the EU budget, based on 2009 budget data
(negative amounts show net contributions)[8]
Member state Per capita
(in euros)
(of national GDP)
Total amount
(in million euros)
Austria −59.7 −0.18 −499
Belgium 90.0 0.29 968
Bulgaria 77.4 1.76 589
Cyprus −34.0 −0.18 −27
Czech Republic 150.4 1.11 1,575
Germany −107.3 −0.37 −8,797
Denmark −211.0 −0.53 −1,163
Estonia 416.2 4.02 558
Finland −113.8 −0.36 −606
France −100.4 −0.34 −6,461
Greece 267.2 1.30 3,009
Hungary 265.1 2.68 2,660
Ireland −35.0 −0.09 −156
Italy −100.7 −0.41 −6,046
Lithuania 438.2 5.33 1,468
Luxembourg 2364.5 3.05 1,167
Latvia 218.8 2.62 495
Malta 17.4 0.13 7
Netherlands −90.2 −0.26 −1,488
Poland 160.5 1.66 6,119
Portugal 196.4 1.25 2,087
Romania 74.8 1.24 1,609
Spain 9.7 0.04 444
Sweden −43.6 −0.13 −404
Slovenia 92.8 0.55 189
Slovakia 88.8 0.78 481
United Kingdom −62.7 −0.24 −3,865

Net contributors and recipients

Net receipts or contributions vary over time, and there are various ways of calculating net contributions to the EU budget, depending, for instance, on whether countries' administrative expenditure is included. Also, one can use either absolute figures (which indicate that Germany is the largest contributor), the proportion of GDP (which show that Denmark is the largest contributor), or per capita amounts (which show that Denmark is the largest contributor). Different countries may tend to favour different methods, to present their country in a more favourable light.

The table shows the traditional calculation (with own resources), based on research by Deutsche Bank Research (net contributors are shown in blue).[8]

As a proportion of GDP, net contributors pay from 0.09 percent (Ireland) to 0.53 percent (Denmark), and net recipients receive from 0.04 percent (Spain) to 5.33 percent (Lithuania).

  • The four largest net recipients in absolute terms are Poland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal.
  • The four largest net recipients in per capita terms are Luxembourg, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece
  • The four largest net recipients as a proportion of GDP are Lithuania, Estonia, Luxembourg, Hungary.
  • The four largest net contributors in absolute terms are Germany, France, Italy, UK
  • The four largest net contributors in per capita terms are Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy.
  • The four largest net contributors as a proportion of GDP are Denmark, Italy, Germany, Finland.

The EU budget for 2014–2020

On 29 June 2011, the European Commission presented the Communication 'A budget for Europe 2020' to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.[9]

Due to the tough economic times, seven member states (Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) argued during the 26 March 2012 General Affairs Council meeting that the EC's proposed overall amount for the seven-year EU budget plan should be reduced by €100 billion, or in the case of Sweden, by more than €100 billion.[10]

On 8 February 2013, European Union leaders agreed to cut the budget by 3.3%; the agreement on the proposed budget by the European Council has yet to be approved by the European Parliament, adopted unanimously by the Council of the European Union and ratified by the national parliaments of all member states; if adopted, it will be the first cut in its 56-year history.[11][12][13]

See also

External links

  • OpenSpending Project's "Where Does the EU's Money Go? – A Guide to the Data"
  • Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014–2020 EU Commission website on the long-term budget proposals
  • The European Parliament's Budget Focus Information about the 2011 Budget
  • Interview with EP Budget discharge rapporteur, European Parliament website (12 November 2008)
  • Europe plans vast contingency fund, racing to contain crisis
  • Iain Begg: An EU Tax: Overdue Reform or Federalist Fantasy?, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, February 2011, PDF 140 KB


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