The EU budget for the next six years is a whopping 960 billion euros. That’s a significant amount of cash, though it’s worth bearing in mind that the Union’s budget is only 1% of the EU’s combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – whilst the average budget of a European government accounts for 44% of a country’s GDP. Moreover, the EU budget is actually shrinking in real terms compared to 2007-2013.

Still, we get a lot of comments wondering whether the EU is “worth taxpayers’ money”, so we thought we would try to get some responses. Whilst hunting for answers, we recently spoke to Michael Theurer, a German MEP who sits with the  Liberal Democrats and is the Chair of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee.

We started with a comment from Catherine, who thought that the EU should better tackle mismanagement and waste in the budget. Michael Theurer agreed:

theurerAs President of the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament, I would like to answer that Catherine is completely right and we have done precisely that with our new budget. We want to see “better spending” not “more spending”, so we reduced the EU budget from 980 billion euros in the period 2007-2013 to now 960 billion euros for 2014-2020.

Also, remember that most of the national budgets in the Member States are increasing, whilst the EU budget is now decreasing. So, that is a huge challenge because there is now less money in the budget so we have to focus the money to invest in future areas like research and investment in infrastructure. That was exactly what the Budgets Committee and Budgetary Control Committee proposed to the European Parliament and what is now imposed in the new compromise for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

Next, we had a question from Kevin, who wants to know when was “the last time the EU had its accounts signed off by the auditors?” In fact, the EU had its accounts signed off last year by the Court of Auditors, an independent body established in 1975 to check the accounts of EU institutions. Nevertheless, it’s true that the Court of Auditors sets an acceptable “error rate” of 2% and the EU has consistently failed to hit this target for the past 19 years (the error rate was 4.8% in 2012). So, how would Michael Theurer respond?

theurerIt’s not correct, as Kevin suggests, that this indicates fraud. It is true, however, that the accounts have had an error rate above 2% and the Court of Auditors has been calling on the Commission and – in particular – the Member States to find a solution to that. In fact, 80% of the EU’s budget is under “Shared Management”, which means it is under the administration of the Member States themselves, and the error rate comes into existence in the Member States at the beneficiary level. Nevertheless, from the European Parliament’s perspective it is really necessary that these errors are reduced. The European Parliament calls for improvements in financial management, and therefore we only granted discharge for the 2012 EU budget under political reservations.

Do YOU know how big the EU budget is compared to national budgets? Is it shrinking or growing? And do you think the EU budget is being spent wisely? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Kiki99

37 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Ana Georgieva

    We live with a budget of 50-70 billion per year, so for sure we are not the one who spend “unwisely.” :)

  2. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    yes… I tthink is arround 100 bilions. THis is nothing… but the real budget is the amount of moeny that BCE puts in circulation every day, 10cents per person… then banks mulitply to 1 euro per person per day… this is the real budget and how big corporations control the european market…. you wan to be rich!… dont work, invest!.

  3. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    productivity is inversely proportional to salary!… look at the african inmigrants… they produce the most of the food of Europeans consume and they own 2 euros per hour as much!.

    • avatar

      You mean they are paid slave wages!

    • avatar

      It comes down to leverage when you’re negotiating wages.
      If you’re an unskilled worker who’s easily replaced by a new worker due to the simple labor that the job requires, you can’t negotiate a high wage.
      If you’re a skilled worker, who works as, for example an accountant, you’re not as easily replaced since there aren’t that many people who have the necessary skills to do that job, so you have an easier time negotiating a higher salary.
      That’s why African immigrants earn little.

  4. avatar
    Ronny (Transparency International EU)

    Our concern is that the EU’s blacklisting system for corrupt companies isn’t working effectively:

    For us at Transparency International, the effective protection of the EU budget against potential corruption is of great importance and needs to tackled to strengthen the European Union Integrity System:

  5. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    NATO drains the EU of tax money it badly needs .. No country on the planet will invade or attack EU .. NATO needs to be canceled.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Alex Tselentis
      Hi, have you got any info on this as it sounds very interesting?

      Thank you.

    • avatar

      @Alex : did you miss the whole Ukraine situation and Russia’s CLEAR threats to Estonia?

  6. avatar

    We are talking about tax money here and we talking about transparency and accountability.

    How well is internal auditing organized and how often does it happen? Do you have reporting and controlling on daily basis too?

    It is well known that every year 6 billion euro isn’t accounted for. When will you solve that? What do you need to solve that?

  7. avatar
    nando aidos

    I consider myself a well informed citizen and I have great difficulty understanding not only the national budgets, but the EU budgets and my contry’s contribution to the EU budget. I also find it difficult to understand where the budgets are being spent. And I find it difficult to understand why there are so many regulators in the EU organizations contributing to what I consider a costly budget.
    The “EU budget explained” on the web page is full of “relative numbers (percentages of what?)” and “qualitative answers (larger, smaller and diminishing)”.
    In the figures section all line items are “lofty” and mean very little to the citizen paying taxes.
    And then there are backup documents, some with 1000 pages, that I am sure do not resonate with the European citizen on the street. They certainly do not resonate with me.
    I find this a demonstration of lack of transparency. And this needs fixing.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Nando Aidos
      Well said. I too have noticed a certain amount of qualitative bias and orphan statistical data WRT EU-sourced data about the EU.

  8. avatar

    Absolutely not. Not the amount is the real issue here but the direction money goes. From left pocket to the right pocket bypassing the real needs.

    • avatar

      Thank you, I signed it, I have also read the document from the green party.
      I hate that animal torture and dumbass public money spending.

    • avatar

      Signed. This is really sick, i with spanish people would stop doing this :(

  9. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    No, too much corruption. Next question please…

  10. avatar
    Mudasiru Bello

    Mooncoin slower more. why don’t they invite more tax payer’s more for Irish naturalization again?

  11. avatar
    Pedro Jesus

    Don’t know if national budget is being well spent, how the hell should i know about EU budget. At the moment we cannot trust, nothing is clear…

  12. avatar
    Paul X

    They always trot out the party line about how small the EU budget contributions are compared to National budgets as if we are expected to dismiss it as an insignificant amount?….the main difference is we actually get told where our national budget is being spent

  13. avatar
    Behrose Qadiry

    World financial and economic crisis is definitely having its strong effects on the EU budget, and the bailout activities of the EU is deteriorating the situation more. At this difficult moments, lets not focus much on the EU enlargement and ransom bailout programs, instead focus much on increasing the internal integration and cohesion policies which in the long-term will take us to what we really want.

    • avatar

      That rule does not work in Spain where you can find a bunch of untrustworthy official papers at every level of the administration, even at Universities, I bet for this very same at Italy or Portugal or Greece…

  14. avatar

    Just don’t follow Reagan’s “War on Drugs” or Bush’s JR “War on Terror” pattern. Yanks too spend hundred of billions on wrong solutions with extremely poor results. Neoliberals and neoconservatives are mastering the invention of “wars against… you name it” and then they start pursuing people in believing that they are the only ones who know how to win it. So be warned, someone from inside PPE might come with “War on Poverty” fake but expensive solutions.

  15. avatar


    Their next plan is the ‘War on middle class jobs’. The transatlantic treaty that will destroy hundreds of thousands of such jobs in Europe (which will be moved to low wage countries) is being backed by all the main stream politicians in Euroland who are salivating at the prospect of a photo op with the drone king Obama himself.

    Yes its true, the socalled TTIP will destroy jobs, after all, the less barriers, the cheaper and easier it becomes to move more and more jobs to low wage countries. The rich, corporations and banks and their political cronies will make out like bandits.

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone really believe the TTIP propaganda that it will create jobs? It will do nothing of the kind!

    • avatar

      Link to article or proof because this is a VERY SERIOUS accusation.
      I know about this so-called “free trade treaty” but i didn’t know most EU officials are in agreement with this crap.

  16. avatar
    Luis Prenda

    Espero que este orçamento/2014-2020, cumpre as necessidades dos europeus, principalmente o desemprego que tanto tem afetado todos os cidadãos.

  17. avatar
    Duarte Ferreira

    “Nevertheless, it’s true that the Court of Auditors sets an acceptable “error rate” of 2% and the EU has consistently failed to hit this target for the past 19 years (the error rate was 4.8% in 2012).”
    So the budget is 980 billion euros for 2007-2013 and we have an error of 4.8%, as far as I can tell this means that the numbers don’t sum up and we, and by “we” I mean the EU, don’t know where we used 46,08 Billion Euros. Am I the only one shocked by these numbers?

  18. avatar

    All i really want to know is how much of this goes to green ( ecological /renewable ) energy R&D and building.

    • avatar

      ja poprostu zyje Hiszpani i wiem jak jest trudno pieniazkami ale moze bedzie lupiej cala europa jest wdlugach ja bodajze wiem jak jest z praca Hiszpani bez pracy bardzo duzo ludzi chcieli pracowac nie pieniaszkow

  19. avatar

    The EU Commission issued a report end 2012 where it was estimated that Europe was losing 1 trillion € per year through tax fraud, avoidance and evasion. I hear very little of what is done to recover this money which belongs the EU citizens and which would if recovered change the European situation dramatically, enable a sustainable green growth providing independance from fossil fuel imports which are costing us 1 billion € per day and threaten our democracy (ukraine!), provede employment, reduce co2 emissions.

    This should be prioirty 1 and yet I hardly see anything happening ( vested interest in keeping situation as it is?)

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