As for the expenditure side of the budget, the 2014-2020 MFF sets the maximum level of resources (‘ceiling’) for each major category (‘heading’) of EU spending for a period of seven years. Negotiated between 2011 and 2013 against the backdrop of the economic crisis and fiscal consolidation in Member States, the current MFF is the first to have lower resources in comparison with the previous programming period (2007-2013). The share of EU GNI devoted to the MFF was set at 1 % for commitments and 0.95 % for payments (down from 1.12 % and 1.06 % for the 2007 to 2013 period).
The MFF resources for commitments over the entire 2014 to 2020 period amount to €1 087.1 billion in current prices (or €963.5 billion in 2011 prices). Figure 6 shows their distribution among the six major categories of EU spending (one category has two subcategories or ‘subheadings’). The MFF details the annual ceilings for new commitments in each spending category and an overall ceiling for annual payments. In addition, it contains some special instruments outside the MFF ceilings (e.g. the Emergency Aid Reserve, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the European Union Solidarity Fund) and flexibility provisions, to give some room for manoeuvre in the case of unexpected events. The challenge is to strike the right balance between predictability of investments and the capacity to address the unforeseen events and new priorities that can emerge during a rather long programming period.