The European Union had a budget of €143 billion in 2014. That’s not an insignificant amount of cash, even if it only represents around 1% of the Gross National Income (GNI) of the 28-member bloc. It’s money that could be spent on other things (something particularly worth considering when public sector budgets are being squeezed). So, what do countries get for their “membership fee”? And are the benefits worth the costs?
The amount a country pays into the budget depends upon the size of its economy, with some countries ending up as net beneficiaries while others are net contributors. In 2014, the largest contributors to the budget included Germany (€25.81 billion), France (€19.58), Italy (€14.37 billion), the UK (€11.34 billion), and Spain (€9.98).
We had a comment sent in by James arguing that the value of EU membership was more than just a bean-counting exercise:
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.
To get a response, we spoke to Beatrix Von Storch, an MEP with the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). She disagreed with James, arguing that savings could be made by returning more rights and powers to Member States:
I think we spend too much on the European Union because there are too many responsibilities which have been given to the European level. So, I would rather have more sovereign rights at the national level, and less at the European level. Then it would not be as expensive as it is.
On the other hand, we had Dr Sofia Vasilopoulou, Lecturer at the Department of Politics of the University of York, who argued that we shouldn’t take EU membership for granted:
The EU is about much more than value for money. But our ability to penetrate international markets is value for money, as is trade without tariffs and customs. It’s also ‘value for money’ to be part of a large trading bloc and negotiate with other countries in the world as part of that trading bloc.
We often take the EU for granted. We take for granted travelling without a visa, or that we can move freely within the EU and go and live in Spain or any other country indefinitely.
Also, we’re taking for granted the cultural exchange we have; the learning of new languages, and the Erasmus programme, which is precisely tailored for younger people. A classic example is roaming charges; roaming charges have been decreasing and will eventually be phased out. It all comes from EU, and we take it for granted.
Is the EU worth the money? Or would transferring powers back to the national level help save billions? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.