Peter Becker

Lost in Stagnation

The EU’s Next Multiannual Financial Framework (2014–2020) and the Power of the Status Quo

SWP Research Paper 2012/RP 14, October 2012, 22 Pages

The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) defines the European Union’s strategic objectives for 2014 to 2020 and sets out how their implementation is to be funded from the EU budget. For the fifth MFF the Commission proposes a total volume of approximately one trillion euros.

Although past MFF negotiations have always concluded with an agreement in the end, decision-makers in the EU’s organs and member-states have become increasingly dissatisfied with the process and its outcomes. But those involved find themselves unable to reform the MFF. The contradiction springs above all from the extreme path-dependency of the European budget system. Every European budget compromise agreed consolidates institutional structures and increases the costs of change, even as the outcomes become ever less convincing. There is consequently little sense in disseminating yet more normative reform proposals or demonstrating how an ideal European Financial Framework should look and what priorities it should be used to fund. Instead, the current MFF talks will adapt to political realities and seek change primarily through pragmatic priority-shifting within the central spending priorities. So discussions about a new legal basis for the central spending policies must be closely linked to the MFF talks. A series of many small steps can incrementally realign European spending policies for new objectives and priorities.

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