Europa Briefing: EU-Budget
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, Europa Briefing: EU budget: What's the cost of Europe?

The European Union’s budget is relatively small but how it is fi nanced and for what purpose it is used is controversial. The debate around this issue is coming to a head with the pending departure of the United Kingdom. Where does the EU get its money from? Who benefi ts from the spending? And what ideas are there for a more transparent and effective budget?

The EU budget totals just under 150 billion euro a year, roughly one percent of European economic output. Whether this sum is large enough depends on one’s view of what the budget should cover. This matches roughly the budget of the German Federal Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs of just under 140 billion euro per year. The EU finances most of its budget through contributions by the member states. Although originally customs duties were planned to be the main source of revenue, these bring in only roughly an eighth of today’s revenue. In general, the amount contributed per individual member state depends on that country’s economic strength.

Not all items in the EU budget are effective from a German point of view, but they are part of a larger compromise. The EU gives Germany a stable political environment, access to a huge market and international infl uence, for example. In comparison to these advantages, the amount that Germany contributes appears more than justified.
Jörg Haas, Jacques Delors Institut – Berlin

The EU budget is slowly changing. In 2000, the EU still spent half its funds on supporting agriculture. This proportion has fallen by more than ten percentage points since then. Today, the focus is more on European infrastructure, research and a common foreign policy, although these new areas still account for less than a quarter of total spending. Roughly a third goes to so-called structural funds that provide support for economically weaker regions of the EU.

But what options are there for the EU budget in the future? Read our new Europa Briefing.

About our publication series “Europa Briefing”

In the publication series “Europa Briefing”, the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Jacques Delors Institut – Berlin cover key topics of European politics and present possible scenarios: What is the problem? What might happen next? And what can politics do now?

All the publications of the joint European project with the Jacques Delors Institut – Berlin are available at

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Publikation: EU budget: What’s the cost of Europe?

The European Union’s budget is relatively small but how it is financed and for what purpose it is used is controversial. The debate around ...

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