Where Does Europe’s Money Go? A Guide to EU Budget Data Sources

Jul 1, 2015

The EU has committed to spending €959.988 billion between 2014 and 2020. This money is disbursed through over 80 funds and programmes that are managed by over 100 different authorities. Where does this money come from? How is it allocated? And how is it spent?

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.

Recent polls show that European citizens hold the EU to be inaccessible due to its complexity and lack of transparency. 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.

Where Does Europe's Money Go?