This sets out the EU's long-term spending priorities and limits.
The annual EU budget is €145 bn (2015 figures) – a large sum in absolute terms, but only about 1% of the wealth generated by EU economies every year.
The budget is subject to limits established by the multiannual financial framework. This sets the maximum annual amounts which the EU can spend in various policy areas over a given period (usually 7 years).
The EU budget is used in areas where it makes sense to pool resources for the good of Europe as a whole, such as:
The annual budget – subject to the ceilings set out in the multiannual financial framework, is decided democratically as follows:
What happens after the budget has been spent?
The lion's share of the EU budget supports growth and jobs. Another significant share goes on agriculture and rural development.
Top expenditure areas (2015)
46% – smart and inclusive growth in the EU, subdivided into:
41% – producing safe and secure food supplies, innovative farming and efficient and sustainable use of land and forests.
How does the EU budget break down by budget heading? (2015 figures)
Within the EU
Some programmes & budgets in 2015:
EU budget 2015 by financial framework heading
Outside the EU
As a major global player, the EU has certain obligations to the outside world:
Non-EU countries receiving aid from the EU budget fall into 3 main groups:
Examples of programmes in 2015:
About 94% of the budget funds real activities on the ground in EU countries and beyond. All 508 million Europeans benefit in some way from the budget. It helps millions of students, thousands of researchers, and many cities, regions and NGOs.
About 6% of the budget. This includes administrative costs for all the institutions (mainly the European Commission, Parliament and EU Council), including the translators and interpreters needed to make information available in all of the EU’s official languages.
As part of a reform package, the largest institution, the Commission, is cutting staff by 1% every year, while also increasing working hours. Ultimately, staff will be cut by 5%.
Updated in November 2014
This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series