European Union


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 long-term budget.

The EU budget is used in areas where it makes sense to pool resources for the good of Europe as a whole, such as:

  • improving transport, energy and communications links between EU countries
  • protecting the environment Europe-wide
  • making the European economy more competitive globally
  • helping European scientists and researchers join forces across borders.

EU budget in figures

Who decides how the money is spent?

The annual budget – subject to the ceilings set out in the long-term budget, is decided democratically as follows:

What happens after the budget has been spent?

  • The Commission tells the European Parliament and the Council how it was spent.
  • The European Court of Auditors also scrutinises spending.
  • If the money has been spent in accordance with the rules, the European Parliament gives its approval.

What is the money spent on?

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:

  • 34% – helping underdeveloped EU regions and disadvantaged sections of society
  • 12% – making European firms more competitive.

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:

Outside the EU

As a major global player, the EU has certain obligations to the outside world:

  • promoting economic & social development
  • keeping the peace
  • helping victims of disasters & conflict.

Non-EU countries receiving aid from the EU budget fall into 3 main groups:

  • Parts of the developing world where certain EU countries have strong historical ties (especially Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific).
  • Neighbouring countries – in eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
  • Countries preparing to join the EU (candidates or potential candidates).

Examples of programmes in 2015:

Who benefits from the EU budget?

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.

How much is spent on running costs?

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

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