euro-coinsNegotiators in Brussels finally reached a deal late last night over the 2014 budget for the European Union. The compromise agreeement represents a real term cut in spending of almost 6 percent compared with the budget for 2013. The deepest cuts will be to EU cohesion funding, including cuts to structural funds destined for the poorest regions in Europe.

When we discussed cutting the EU budget earlier this year, we had several comments sent in that were very supportive of the move. One comment from Rolando, for example, argued that it would make it easier for people to accept austerity measures at the national level if they could also see cuts taking place in Brussels:

citizen_icon_180x180[Cutting the EU budget] is a sign to citizens that the EU looks reality in the eye [and] is not ignorant of what is going on. Everybody has to do with less, so why not people in Brussels too?

We recently spoke to Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, a socialist MEP and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets. How would she respond to Rolando’s comment?

rubialWell, Rolando, this is of course a very popular question, and I have been asked this many times. It’s true, of course, that we’re in a crisis in Europe and we have to think how to manage our economies and budgets more efficiently. But it’s also true that the European budget is an investment budget, which can help Europe’s economy over the long-term. It’s also a very small budget compared to national budgets, representing only 1% of the EU’s GNI… So, when we talk about the European budget, we are talking about a budget designed to help European citizens live better in these troubling times. That includes cohesion funds, paying for infrastructure, social funds for helping young people with training to get jobs, and so on.

We also had a comment from Paul, who believed there was too much waste in the European budget and it should be spent more efficiently:

citizen_icon_180x180Why should tax payers be expected to pay more to Brussels while having to make sacrifices in their own households? Better control of what they already get is what is needed not just throwing more good money after bad

The European Court of Auditors, which checks the EU’s books each year, recently found that the error rate in the EU’s accounts had risen for the third year running, from 3.9% in 2011 to 4.8% last year. The error rate doesn’t necessarily reflect the rate of fraud, however, as it can also indicate innocent mistakes or payment procedures not being followed correctly. Furthermore, many of the errors arose when funds were distributed not by the European Commission, but by member state governments. However, Vitor Caldeira, the President of the European Court of Auditors, nevertheless believes that the EU should change its spending culture and “focus on value for money”.

How would Eider Gardiazabal Rubial respond to Paul’s criticism?

rubialI agree with Paul, but I think we are already doing it… The European Court of Auditors reports the rate of errors, but this does not always indicate a bad use of money. Rather, sometimes papers are badly written or lack a signature. The error level we have is a very, very low level, and we can be proud of it. Of course, everything can be improved, which is why we’re still working on it.

Vote 2014

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IMAGE CREDITS: Creative Commons Attribution – chris-sy

65 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Would it make it easier for people to accept austerity measures at home if they could see cuts taking place in Brussel? Do you think there's too much waste in the European budget and it should be spent more efficiently? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    Paul X

    “Do you feel the EU represents good value for money?”
    This is the $64M dollar question!…..if someone would actually sit down and explain exactly what I’m getting for my money then I can say if it is good value or not

  2. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Austerity for people means wage under poverty level.Cut eurocrats wages to unemployment benefit of Greece at 300 euros a month and austerity will stop.

  3. avatar
    James McManama

    It’s difficult to quantify “value for money” here. What price can we put on Pax Europaea, the period of peace since the end of WWII? We don’t know what the world would look like without the EU, so it’s difficult to say for certain whether it would be better or worse.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @James McManama
      You appear a tad confused about Pax Europa dear chap.

      The cost of Pax Europa is based on the cost of the UK’s and France’s nuclear arsenals.

      Said peace has nothing to do with the EU.

    • avatar

      Peace has nothing to do with the existence of the EU (Eurosoviet Union). No relation whatsoever.

      In fact, the EU is altogether responsible for todays antagonisms and distrust.

    • avatar
      James McManama

      @Tarquin I’ve heard many times the argument that peace in Europe owes more to the dismemberment of Germany and / or the existence of nuclear weapons than it does to European integration. I’m not dismissing that argument – it does make a lot of sense. However, it also takes a rather classical realist approach to warfare (as well as being overly focused on the situation in Western Europe).

      In the post-war period, we know that civil conflict, sub-state conflict and other “unconventional” forms of conflict have persisted, despite the proliferation of nuclear arms since the 1940s. In fact, it could be argued that the existence of nuclear weapons has actually INCREASED the likelihood of these types of conflicts, because proxy warfare became much safer than conventional warfare.

      The collapse of Yugoslavia and the various conflicts in the Balkans took place in Europe, despite the existence of nuclear weapons (and, yes, despite the existence of the European Union). Likewise, the Arab Spring and its related conflicts (including the ongoing violence in Syria) occurred despite the existence of nukes (and, again, despite the EU).

      So, we know that nuclear weapons aren’t enough to prevent warfare of the kind seen along Europe’s borders, in Yugoslavia, North Africa and the Levant. We also know that the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union was an incredibly tense time in international relations, and that it encouraged further European integration (including the Treaty of Maastricht and the enlargement of the EU to include many former Warsaw Pact countries).

      Without the European Union, it’s difficult to say confidently that the experience of Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, etc. would not have been repeated elsewhere, especially given the upheaval of the years following the collapse of the USSR.

      @Marcel By using the expression “Eurosoviet Union”, you are only alienating the moderate voters you need to get your country out of the European Union. And, if you want to increase the Eurosceptic vote (as I presume you do), it will be precisely these moderate voters you need to win over. So, by all means, continue to publicly accuse the EU of being a totalitarian state if it makes you feel better, but I don’t think it can help your cause.

  4. avatar
    Stefanescu Dan

    mi da?i 1mld? dac? scot eu din criz?? vin alegerile !mi fac un birou n Casa Poporului ?i m? fac dictator 1 an de zile.nare rost austeritatea

  5. avatar
    Joseph Bartolo

    Cut the wasted Money being given to the Top tier of the so called EU officials, such as the President that is not elected by the Eurpean people and thjose that are not elected by the citizens themselves. No Austerity for the Pensioners, workers and everyone that is out of work.

  6. avatar
    Carlos Neto

    I feel as of right now people in Europe dont feel the EU have a real value, neither for the money they pay nor for the “mesures” they are forced to implement either austerity mesures or not. Much of this disconnection with the Union comes from the way the actions are (not) comunicated to the average European citizen, which leads people to feel like they are not represented by the actual European Union.
    There is no question that leading by example is the best strategy, so a better resource management in Brussels with effective comunication could have a good effect on popluations.
    In terms of budget a focus on comunicating on how the spending is effectivly being used to improve one’s life, instead of huge studies and projects that are whether not applied or never affect the average citizen could be a good strategy.

  7. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    do not cut the EU budget itself, but cut the salaries of the EU bureaucrats… The EU budget should not be the victim of bad administration and corruption, but those who are at fault must pay. Everybody across Europe takes cuts, and so must those in Brussels.. The EU budget must remain the same or even be increased so that the EU institutions have more money in their hands to create projects in employment or education and many others, that will help people across EU. Of course one would ask, yes but will they? If they don’t then we need transparency to know where are this money goes.

    • avatar
      Luc Sabbe

      Do you know why the Brussels bureaucrats earn that much? Because they are paid in euro (and Belgian francs 11 years ago) but their salary rose with the average inflation in the European countries. In those days Greece, Spain, Portugal and others had a very high inflation, but their risen salaries were compensated by devaluation. You should ask for another mechanism for salary raises in Brussels. That is the key point!

    • avatar
      Christos Mouzeviris

      Luc I understand and I agree… Thanx..

  8. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Christos Mouzeviris
    I agree with you that the wages of Eurocraps (sorry Eurocrats) should be cut – indeed they should be cut by the amount of pilfering, thieving, malfeasance and outright corruption by which the EU budget is effectively reduced by each year circa 5%.

    However, the EU budget must MUST NOT be increased at least NOT until the amount lost by corruption drops below 2%.

    • avatar
      Christos Mouzeviris.

      Kinda agree with you about the corruption.. But if we keep giving the EU less and less money, then we tie the hands of the officials and they do not have enough money to work on issues that national governments fail or are indifferent to do so…Let us have some more transparency then and get on with the work that must be done..

  9. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @ Eider Gardiazábal Rubial
    You are a DISGRACE!

    You have the audacity to be proud of the fact that the EU Court of Auditors has not signed off EU accounts this year [and indeed for all 18 years prior to that] – what a disgrace!

    Is it any wonder that the thought of greater EU influence on my life and the lives of many other EU citizens fills me and others with DREAD!!

  10. avatar
    Luc Sabbe

    Of course the European bureaucracy can work more efficiently, but what are we talking about: less than 1% of the GNP of each country,I guess something like the total budget of Slovenia? I am in favour of more central power and thus a higher budget than it is now. Few people realize how high the productivity of the European commission and parliament is. We would spill less is less is done in 28-fold as it happens nowadays. I regret that the european budget is cut.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      You often hear the “it’s only 1% of GDP” spouted as if it’s an insignificance. For the UK that’s over 11 billion euros which would go a long way to solving many problems in this country rather than having it handed out to others who’s only gratitude is to demand more

    • avatar
      Luc Sabbe

      To Paul X: Try to think European, not nationalistic. What do Scottish people say about the UK spendings?

  11. avatar
    Samuel Tandorf

    We get so much back!
    We do have to come up with a different way of funding though. We pay so many different kinds of taxes but no direct tax to Brussels. Member state institutions and politicians use up so much money when we don’t even need the member states as extra entities.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      DO I understand you correctly? Are you saying we should be paying tax direct to the EU and that National governments are just a superfluous and a waste of money? Excuse me if I don’t agree with someone who wants to remove the last vestige of democracy the population of Europe have

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Luc Sabbe
      Please elaborate upon your rather bizarre statement.

  12. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    I would invest more money in health, education and research! And woul pay more attention to social problems!

  13. avatar
    Paul X

    To Luc Sabbe
    Why should I think European, what goes on in the rest of Europe is never going to concern me more than what goes on on my own doorstep, and anyone who says they think otherwise is a liar
    What is so wrong in wanting my taxes to be used to the benefit of my family instead of those in countries I very rarely visit?
    I refer back to my first post on this topic, if someone cares to sit and explain exactly where my taxes go in the EU and how it is of benefit to me, I can then answer the question if it is value for money

    ..and the Scottish, just like all other sensible people don’t like paying out money without knowing where it is going and what it is for

    • avatar
      Luc Sabbe

      I am sorry to say that the British empire is no more. If we want to have a voice in the world, we should unite in what is now Europe. That you then have to pay for constructing a unified market which also needs a unified regulation, is difficult for some people, but essential. I don’t blame the scottish, it is a natural reflex. Look to the future. You are more dependent on and have profits from the EU than you realize (when you read the popular press)

    • avatar
      Jorge Nunez

      Hi Paul,
      Because if you do not invest in the other EU countries you will have:
      a) Less demand for UK products there
      b) More emigration to the UK from there
      c) More political instability on those countries
      d) less influence from the EU or the UK in those countries with impacts on trade, gas, energy flows etc.
      The geopolitical importance of the EU budget is more important than its size. I think the Uk would pay one way or another, the EU offers a kind of framework which in fact is useful. There are some other benefits and the UK is a net beneficiary of research funding for example.
      There is nevertheless a continuous need to adapt and reform and the EU need to transform into a 21st century institution, it is still working on bases of the 1960s – 1980s, a problem with all big organisations, reform is hard. The EU needs to become again a system to bring benefits to citizens better and clearer otherwise it is normal that it is challenged. I however, believe that without the EU, the Eastern borders would have been much more unstable, and some democracies, such as in Span or Portugal very shaky. That is worth some thought.

  14. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Qual é a melhor maneira de fazer Politica com a cabesa ou com os Pés a Instituições Europeias devem desenvolver uma nova estratégia dentro dos estados da União o empreededorismo social eu creio e acredito é uma oportunidade de imenso criação e emprego e da errradicação da Pobreza dentro da Europa e será certamente o relancionamento da Económia europeia e essa nova estratégia deve ter um patrocinio que será o própio estado e a UE

  15. avatar
    Nuno Telleria

    I am sure there is waste in EU Budget…take as an example the 150 million cost of moving the entire EU parliament hundreds of miles from Brussels to Strasbourg for a plenary sitting once a month or the 8 million of annual cost of EuroparlTV, a television channel, which highlights the work of MEPs, and has only 830 daily viewers, less than 10 per cent of the 9,000 people working in the parliament every day. ….

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Nuno Telleria

      The Strasbourg parliament is a monument to EU corruption – it needs to be closed down.

      BTW as well as Europarl, Euronews (it should be called EuroNewsEntertainment as it peddles pro-EU propaganda more so than news) should either be renamed to reflect its pro-EU bias or closed down due to its [RACIST] anti-Anglo-Saxon remit!

      In short EU VFM!

  16. avatar
    Nuno Telleria

    I am sure there is waste in EU Budget…take as an example the 150 million cost of moving the entire EU parliament hundreds of miles from Brussels to Strasbourg for a plenary sitting once a month or the 8 million of annual cost of EuroparlTV, a television channel, which highlights the work of MEPs, and has only 830 daily viewers, less than 10 per cent of the 9,000 people working in the parliament every day. ….

  17. avatar
    Xavier Schoumaker

    LOL. I love the ignorant comments from Greece about salaries – like there is really an issue there and not in Greece. Hypocrisy: the others first.

  18. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    LOL.. Love the comments from naive immature and misinformed young EU enthousiasts… Always make me laugh because of their biased opinion coming from brainwashing and misinformation…

  19. avatar

    The European Union is like a criminal syndicate. It takes your money and it tells you what to do, and there’s no way to refuse their offers.

  20. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    Jose Manuel, I totally agree with you for the second part. Instead of grant enterprises, they should tax all the import competitive products. After all, that was the purpose of EEC (EU now) from the beginning.
    Now about the “markets”, I didn’t know they were in prison, so we should “free” them! You neoliberals, are so sensitive!

  21. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    Christos Mouzeviris@ I don’t think they are so naive. Half of Brussels live from payments and activities of the EU. And they live… nice!

  22. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Luc Sabbe
    Are you a Eurocrap sorry Eurocrat?

    Your 1% GNP statistic is risible. Have you NO respect for the hard-earned monies EU citizens are forced to give to the corrupt institution called the EU?

    The EU will never prevail unless it cleans its act up and is seen to be holier than thou!

    • avatar

      Tarquin, don’t bother. Luc Sabbe is of the persuasion that if the EU controlled 100% of the money and resources everything would turn into a Eurofederation of milk and honey.

      Incidentally, its a similar thought process that went into the early Soviet Politburo meetings in 1918-1924. Until reality set in of course, and out came the repression.

    • avatar
      Jorge Nunez

      The point by the way is that the EU does NOT control the EU budget, 80% is controlled by the member states that receive it. The 20% controlled by the EU directly does not suffer from the same problems.

      This does not mean that I am happy with the EU budget or the Brussels system, but you are all very simplistic and believe that no EU will make miracles or that the EU is responsible of all ills. I see a lot of links between the financial crisis and scepticism, specially from Greece. For your news, without the (badly managed – I admit) EU support, Greece, Spain etc. would have been destroyed even more. With national currencies you would have also gone bust with nobody to rescue nothing. I find funny that countries that waved high EU flags while getting (and often blatantly misusing EU funds – I have seen it and worked in this issue) are now making grand gestures against the EU. How funds are and were used and invested IS A MEMBER STATE’S obligation, not of the Commission. You were sovereign states that showed the middle finger for years when the Commission warned of lack of coherence in the funds use.

  23. avatar

    Eidor Rubial does not seem to understand the EU has no money it doesn’t first take from its member states. So by definition, anything the EU spends, a member state cannot spend. This is a zero sum game.

    Much better to keep this money in the countries themselves to begin with, because then you wouldn’t have the EU bureaucracy siphoning off 10-20%.

    And the question of ‘is the EU good value for money’. The answer lies in the fact the EU itself bothers not too much to try and explain itself, because it already knows the answer, and it is partially in what I wrote before. The EU has no added value as any money it has, was taken from others first. This is the zero sum game thing again.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Its not even a zero-sum gain as the EU ‘loses’ c5% of its budget every year due to theft/corruption/inefficiencies/lobsters et al.

      When you add-on the fact that many EU projects are match-funded, it could be argued that the EU budget is a 10% loss scenario!

  24. avatar

    @ Luc Sabbe
    Yes the British Empire has gone, we accept that and have moved on, unfortunately the EU is trying it’s hardest to fill the void.
    And who wants to have one voice in the world, where is the democracy in that? Only those at the top who see themselves as big players on the global stage want one voice, the man in the street gains nothing from this “one voice” he just bears the cost of putting someone in charge of it.
    We cant all profit from the EU, it’s a basic law of physics that you cannot get something for nothing so for every person in Europe who recieves some benefit from the EU someone else is paying for it, and I’m pretty fed up with being one of those

    • avatar
      Luc Sabbe

      Dear Paul, what you say sounds reasonable but is still far from the financial truth. Britain has obtained, thanks to Thatcher, a discount on what the UK is paying to the EU. That means that each British citizen is somewhat paying the least for the cost to get the EU organized.
      I agree with you that a lot has to be changed in the EU, especially to keep the eurozone going, but also to reach a true federation. But please stop with accusing every bureaucrat as a criminal and usurpator. I am not a bureaucrat, and they are paid very well, I agree, but I like a discussion based on facts. I don’t think the European bureaucracy is working less well than the British.

  25. avatar
    Paul X

    Luc with the rebate the UK is still the fourth highest contributing country to the EU budget, without the rebate we would be the third
    The rebate is there because the UK benefits far less than other countries on what is one of the biggest expenditures from the budget, CAP
    Anybody who says we should give up the rebate is telling me I must pay more to line the pockets of French farmers…. personally I would rather give it to a charity that actually deserves it instead of some straw sucking, set aside fiddling country layabout
    And those who rant on about the UK rebate conveniently forget about the other countries with rebates i.e. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden

  26. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @Luc Sabbe
    The UK gets a ‘discount’ because the corrupt CAP was created to overpay inefficient French farmers at the expense of the UK and other nations.

    The UK and France have almost identically sized economies and pay almost identical net amounts to the EU – why should the UK pay more than France!

    The so-called UK ‘discount’ was a brilliant piece of corrupt political engineering by the French – another example of the UK getting ripped off by the EU.

    Whats even worse is that the UK loses c£3billion/year because the EU now controls UK fish stocks.

    YOU need to understand that the UK holds the ‘balance of power’ regarding which bloc will lead the Western world in the 21st century – if the UK stays with the EU, the EU ‘might’ have a chance of competing with NAFTA – if the UK sides with NAFTA – its goodbye EU.

    If the EU wants the UK to stay in the EU – the EU should:

    pay a net indexed-linked £10billion/year to the UK AND
    make English the sole EU language AND
    give the UK back control of its OWN fish stocks AND
    place the EU Commission in the UK at the very least.

    YOU need to understand – the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU!

  27. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    @James McManama
    ‘Sub-state’ conflicts are promoted by the presence of nuclear weapons?!?

    Please explain your logic in the context of say Sri Lanka or DRC.

  28. avatar
    James McManama

    See, for example, Proxy Warfare by Andrew Mumford (John Wiley & Sons, 2013):

    “Recourse to proxy war has been a perpetual element of modern warfare, and will continue to be so, because the attainment of a preferred strategic outcome in a certain conflict is outweighed by consequences of direct engagement based on an assessment of interest, ideology and risk. This tendency has been particularly prevalent since 1945, as the shadow of nuclear war ensured more acute selectivity in conflict engagement given the consequences of a potential nuclear exchange.”

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @James McManama
      James – you have not addressed my question. I will ask again:-

      Please explain your logic in the context of say Sri Lanka or DRC.

  29. avatar
    James McManama

    I don’t understand the point in jumping through the hoops you have constructed for me, particularly as you have earlier built such a straw man out of my argument.

    I did not say, as you seem to suggest, that all “‘Sub-state’ conflicts are promoted by the presence of nuclear weapons.”

    In fact, what I said was: “It could be argued that the existence of nuclear weapons has actually INCREASED the likelihood of these types of conflicts, because proxy warfare became much safer than conventional warfare.”

    One or two specific cases, even if they ran counter to my general point, would not undermine my argument because a) I am suggesting a contributing factor to a general trend (i.e. I am not arguing that nuclear proliferation is the sole cause of all civil and sub-state conflict since WWII) and b) I accept that there are other reasons why there has been such a dramatic increase in civil wars and sub-state conflict since 1945 (e.g. decolonialisation and small-arms proliferation).

    So, I believe there is an argument to be made whether or not the individual cases of the Sri Lankan Civil War (which can be viewed in the context of a wider regional rivalry between India and Pakistan) and / or the various conflicts in the Congo/Zaïre/DRC (where Mobutu was supported by Western governments because of his fiercely anti-Communist stance) were really proxy conflicts between nuclear powers.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @James McManama
      Your premise is flawed dear boy:

      NATO was founded in 1949.
      EU was founded in 1993.


  30. avatar
    Peter Cartwright

    As a strong supporter of the European Union project and a British citizen living in Bulgaria, I am quite disappointed that the principles agreed within the Maastricht Treaty, especially the principle of subsidiarity, have, in my opinion been forgotten. I thought and believed that Social, Economic and Political integration was the way forward for the future of European citizens, who would benefit in the long term. Unfortunately, those benefits have not been realised by many European citizens because of lack of Governence within Brussels (such as the case with Greece) which has led to unnecessary expenditure, which could have been put to better use. Now I see with the agreed budget that the poorer countries, such as Bulgaria, will see a diminution of help through the cohesion fund (another principle from the Maastricht Treaty), one of the main reasons Bulgarian people saw as a good reason to join. Now we have to accept that mistakes have been made and I hope that the EU can get back on track and back to the fundamentals as contained within the Maastricht Treaty, which even Margaret Thatcher was happy to sign on behalf of the UK.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Peter Cartwright
      The morally and financially corrupt EU allowed a morally and financial corrupt Bulgaria to join the EU – the fetid circle grows.

  31. avatar

    What a joke! A 6% cut and “the deepest cuts will be to EU cohesion funding, including cuts to structural funds destined for the poorest regions in Europe”.
    I mean, EU bureaucracy doesn’t seem to be affected by cuts, while most eastern European nations – the poorest in Europe – subjected themselves to severe austerity policies. For instance, in my country, there was a 25% cut in the public sector salaries and a 10% cut in pensions was only prevented by the Constitutional Court.
    A massive cut in EU staff costs would make things better for the citizens of EU countries not only by saving tax money, but also by crippling the absurd EU bureaucracy.
    With less staff, maybe they would stop inventing artificial tasks to justify their jobs, such as setting recycling or green energy targets for nations, regulating what kind of lighting we should use in our homes, etc.
    I am a public servant in my country and I often ask myself how come that they are not ashamed issuing such regulations.

    • avatar

      Forgot to mention massive layoffs added to the 25% cuts.

  32. avatar
    Luis Prenda

    O exagero da austeridade económica pode originar o desemprego e o caos económico dos cidadãos, levando para uma situação de exclusão social.

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