By / February 17, 2021

Understanding EU financing for external action

In the face of the changing nature of the geopolitical environment in the past decade and its own internal challenges, the EU has reflected upon and adjusted its vision for its global role.

© European Union, 2021

Written by Velina Lilyanova,

© European Union, 2021

In the face of the changing nature of the geopolitical environment in the past decade and its own internal challenges, the EU has reflected upon and adjusted its vision for its global role. In 2016, the EU Global Strategy for foreign and security policy declared the EU’s ambition to play a stronger role in the world. At the start of its mandate, the current European Commission described itself as a ‘geopolitical’ one. The global pandemic raises further questions about the EU’s role globally.

To assert itself at global level and pursue its priorities, the EU needs adequate means. Its external role and impact are defined to a great extent by the scope of its resources, but also by their efficient and coordinated use. With the adoption of the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027, the EU has ensured the means and tools for achieving its external action objectives over this period. This paper aims to examine how the EU financed its external action in the 2014-2020 MFF and how it has adapted its approach in this domain. Far from being exhaustive, it seeks to map the main financing instruments, mechanisms and actors involved, an exercise revealing the complexity of the architecture involved, as well as to outline the novelties with their underlying reasons and the main trends for the future financing of EU external action.


Read the complete ‘in-depth analysis’ on ‘Understanding EU financing for external action‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.



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