About ten days ago, on 8th of February, the European Council (consisting of heads of state of EU countries) reached an agreement on the new multiannual framework (MFF) for the budget cycle 2014-2020. This in itself is not a budget negotiation, but has three aims: (a) the limit of possible spending – the “ceiling”, (b) on what the money should be spent and (c) rules of where the expenditure is to come from. (read more about what you need to know about the MFF here).
These decisions have important impacts on the policy focus of the EU, and the emphasis of EU activities during the cycle, and as such have also important consequences for education as a policy sector, especially as the role of EU as a supranational policy actor in education has often been linked to their capacity to provide funding and administrative capacity. As such, a more constrained funding environment can also have consequences for the opportunities of EU to take this role in an active manner.
For the first time, the overall available expenditure was less than during the previous budget year. The overall ceiling was set as EUR 908.40 billion, compared to EUR 942.78 billion in the MFF 2007-2013, a reduction of 3,4% in real terms. However, in this context, education was clearly identified as a priority area, and the summary of the agreement provided by EU indicated that “EU leaders agreed on a substantial increase of the financial means for future geared expenditure such as research, innovation and education“. Furthermore, it is indicated that “the expenditure ceiling for sub-heading 1a (“competitiveness”) amounts to EUR 125.61 billion, which is an increase of more than 37% compared to the MFF 2007-2013“.