European leaders met on 20-21 February 2020 in Brussels to discuss the EU budget. Negotiations over the MFF are always fraught, yet this time around they are shaping up to be even more acrimonious than usual as the EU tries to plug a Britain-shaped hole in its finances worth €75 billion over the next seven years.
What is the MFF? In order to provide predictability and clarity for planning purposes (and also because it doesn’t want to see a massive bust-up over money every single year), the EU operates what is charmingly called a “Multiannual Financial Framework” (MFF). It’s basically a seven-year framework setting out a cap (or ‘ceiling’) on what the EU may spend on its various policy areas. The old MFF covers 2014 to 2020, and the period currently under negotiation will begin in 2021 (meaning there is not much time left to come to an agreement).
The MFF is not a budget in itself, but it does regulate how the EU budget is actually spent. So, allocating a higher ceiling for one policy area over another means that certain programmes potentially receive a greater share of resources than others. In this way, the negotiations can help set what policy areas the EU will prioritise in future.
Budgets talks have exposed divisions in the EU. The self-styled “frugal four” (Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark) would like to see EU spending curtailed, while the larger group of 15 so-called “friends of cohesion” want to see funding on things such as infrastructure projects in less-developed Member States remain level.
What do you think the EU spends its money on? We’ve put together a poll below on the budget negotiations. See how much you know!
What should the EU budget prioritise? Where should the money go? Which areas should European funding concentrate on? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!