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The European Council and the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,


EU Heads of State or Government will meet on 20 February 2020 for a special European Council meeting to discuss the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Both the Sibiu Declaration of EU Heads of State or Government and the 2019-24 Strategic Agenda state that ‘the EU must give itself the means to match its ambitions, attain its objectives and carry through its policies’. Following an initial informal discussion in February 2018, the European Council has touched regularly upon the MFF negotiations at its meetings over the last two years. Until now, however, the EU Heads of State or Government have not really attempted to reach an agreement. Most recently, in December 2019, the incoming President of the European Council, Charles Michel, was given a mandate ‘to take the negotiations forward with the aim of reaching a final agreement’. This confirms the European Council’s central involvement in the MFF negotiations, as was the case for the agreement in 2013 on the 2014-2020 long-term budget (see The European Council and the Multiannual Financial Framework, EPRS). This briefing will examine the discussions in and conclusions of the European Council over the past two years, outline the main topics debated and present the diverging views of the various players involved.

Discussions in the European Council since February 2018

Informal European Council meeting, 23 February 2018

On 23 February 2018, the EU Heads of State or Government met informally for an initial discussion on the 2021-2027 MFF. The aim was, in the words of the then European Council President, Donald Tusk, for ‘the European Commission [to] receive political guidance from the European Council, before coming up with its proposals’. Unlike the negotiations for the 2014-2020 MFF, in which the European Council only became fully involved after publication of the Commission’s proposal (The European Council and the Multiannual Financial Framework, EPRS), this time round the European Council began discussing its priorities for the next MFF at an early stage. EU Heads of State or Government discussed (i) the political priorities that should be addressed during the upcoming financial period; (ii) the overall level of expenditure in the next MFF; and (iii) the timetable envisaged for the MFF negotiations. At this meeting, EU leaders did not manage to agree on the overall level of expenditure, but a consensus emerged on the need for the EU to ‘spend more on stemming illegal migration, on defence and security, as well as on the Erasmus+ programme’.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The European Council and the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Visit the European Parliament homepage on the EU’s long term budget 2021-2027.

Or The EU’s long term budget explained.


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