How flexible is the EU budget? Flexibility instruments and mechanisms in the multiannual financial framework (MFF)

23-01-2020

The 1988 introduction of multiannual financial frameworks (MFF) in the European Union (EU) budgetary system has improved financial predictability and facilitated the development of multiannual spending programmes, but has had to be balanced by measures that provided some flexibility and ability to react to unexpected situations. Over the years, these flexibility instruments and mechanisms have developed and proved to be useful. Occasions to use them were frequent, as the crises and challenges faced by the EU required actions that could not be financed under the tight expenditure ceilings of the agreed MFFs. Experience of implementation of the 2014-2020 MFF demonstrated that, with neither relevant flexibility mechanisms nor the possibility to revise the MFF in the mid-term, achieving policy goals and reacting adequately to unexpected events and crises, especially in the area of migration and security, would be impossible. The flexibility of the EU budgets has already featured as an important issue in the negotiations of the 2021 2027 MFF. The views of the main actors – the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council – on enhancing and designing such flexibility instruments diverge. It has yet to be seen if the issue, following the pattern of the 2014-2020 MFF negotiations, will play a key role in reaching an agreement.

The 1988 introduction of multiannual financial frameworks (MFF) in the European Union (EU) budgetary system has improved financial predictability and facilitated the development of multiannual spending programmes, but has had to be balanced by measures that provided some flexibility and ability to react to unexpected situations. Over the years, these flexibility instruments and mechanisms have developed and proved to be useful. Occasions to use them were frequent, as the crises and challenges faced by the EU required actions that could not be financed under the tight expenditure ceilings of the agreed MFFs. Experience of implementation of the 2014-2020 MFF demonstrated that, with neither relevant flexibility mechanisms nor the possibility to revise the MFF in the mid-term, achieving policy goals and reacting adequately to unexpected events and crises, especially in the area of migration and security, would be impossible. The flexibility of the EU budgets has already featured as an important issue in the negotiations of the 2021 2027 MFF. The views of the main actors – the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council – on enhancing and designing such flexibility instruments diverge. It has yet to be seen if the issue, following the pattern of the 2014-2020 MFF negotiations, will play a key role in reaching an agreement.