Where Does Europe’s Money Go?
A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources
This report was researched and written by Elisabeth Druel and Pierre Chrzanowski on behalf of Open Knowledge, with input and guidance from Rufus Pollock and Jonathan Gray. Support was provided by the Adessium Foundation.
Open Knowledge is a global civil society organisation dedicated to opening up public information, research and culture to benefit the lives of citizens around the world. Find out more at: okfn.org.
Adessium Foundation aspires to a society that encourages people to live in harmony with each other and with their environments. The Foundation works to achieve a balanced society characterized by integrity, a balance between people and nature, and social harmony. Find out more at: adessium.org.
Thanks to the following people who provided input, feedback and support at various stages:
- Brigitte Alfter, Europe Editor, JournalismFund.eu and Lecturer, Roskilde University
- Caelainn Barr, Data Journalist, The Guardian
- Cynthia O’Murchu, Reporter, Financial Times
- Nick Aiossa, EU Policy Officer, Transparency International EU Office
The EU Budget in Numbers
Recent polls show that European citizens hold the EU to be inaccessible due to its complexity and lack of transparency.1 The lack of transparency and democratic accountability in European institutions is widely characterised as a “democratic deficit”, a phrase which has become part of the EU’s official glossary. This “democratic deficit” is particularly apparent when it comes to EU public finances.
This guide aims to help civil society organisations (CSOs), journalists and others to navigate the vast landscape of documents and datasets about the EU’s fiscal affairs. In doing so, our objective is to support more evidence-based journalism and advocacy, and - in the longer term - to contribute towards the transparency, public understanding and democratic accountability of EU public finances.
The level of transparency about EU public money is highly variable, and is largely dependent on which authority is responsible for managing and disbursing a given fund. Funds which are exemplary for their transparency exist alongside funds which are effectively dark. For example, on one hand, the Financial Transparency System (FTS) set up by the European Commission provides access to granular open data about spending, but only concerns about 20% of total spending. On the other hand, information about public money spent by EU Members States is often unavailable to the public.
The European Union has now entered into a new budget framework for 2014-2020. This is accompanied by a new financial regulation, defining new funds and new transparency rules. However, as we shall see in this report, many barriers still remain. In addition to providing an overview of key funds and programmes, we also conclude with some analysis and recommendations for further work in this area, which are summarised below.
Summary of Recommendations
Table of Contents
- The EU Budget at a Glance
- How is the EU Budget Set Up?
- Where Does the Money Come From?
- Who Manages and Spends the Money, and How?
- Where Does the Money Go?
- How Transparent is the EU Budget?
- Journalistic Investigations and Transparency Projects to Follow the Money
- Recommendations and Next Steps
- Annex - The Open Data Audit of EU Funds
- Annex - Legal Basis for the Establishment of the EU budget
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For example, see this analysis from the Robert Schuman Foundation on recent opinion polls: http://www.robert-schuman.eu/en/european-issues/0333-overcoming-democratic-breakdown-in-the-european-union ↩