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Financial perspectives system and the multiannual financial framework

Budgetary priorities determined by interinstitutional agreements

The political and institutional balance of the Community's system of finance gradually was marked by ever-increasing strains in the 1980s. The conflict between the two arms of the budgetary authority (the European Parliament and the Council) meant that the annual budgetary procedure became increasingly difficult to administer and resulted in budgetary imbalances and a growing mismatch between Community resources and requirements. This prompted the Community to introduce a system designed to improve the budgetary procedure.

Through an interinstitutional agreement (IIA), the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agree in advance on the main budgetary priorities for a period covering a number of years. These budgetary priorities establish a framework for Community expenditure (the multiannual financial framework) in the shape of a financial perspective. The system of financial perspectives thus improves the budgetary procedure whilst ensuring budgetary discipline. The multiannual financial framework is not mentioned in the treaties.

Financial perspective and multiannual financial framework: a means of ensuring budgetary discipline

The multiannual financial framework indicates the maximum amount and the composition of foreseeable Community expenditure. The first Interinstitutional Agreement was concluded in 1988 for the application of the 1988-92 financial perspective (Delors I package), which was intended to provide the resources needed for the budgetary implementation of the Single European Act. Since then, the financial perspectives have been updated in 1992 for the period 1993-99 (Delors II package), in 1999 for the period 2000-06 (" Agenda 2000 ") and in 2006 for the period 2007-13.

The purpose of the financial perspective is therefore to strengthen budgetary discipline, to keep the total increase in expenditure under control and to ensure that the procedure runs smoothly. The multiannual financial framework imposes a dual ceiling on expenditure: one for total expenditure and one for each category of expenditure.

Structure of the mutiannual financial framework

For each programming period, the multiannual financial framework determines "ceilings" (the maximum amounts of commitment appropriations and payment appropriations) per "heading" (the categories of expenditure) for each year. The annual budgetary procedure determines the exact level of expenditure and the breakdown between the various budget lines for the year in question.

The expenditure allocated to each heading is based on the Union's political priorities for the period in question. The structure of the multiannual financial framework for 2007-13 is as follows:


Sustainable growth

1 a.

Competitiveness for growth and employment

1 b.

Cohesion for growth and employment


Conservation and management of natural resources (including market expenditure and direct payments)


Citizenship, freedom, security and justice

3 a.

Freedom, security and justice

3 b.



EU as a world player





The ring-fencing of expenditure headings means that a budget line is financed only from a given heading. Each heading should be well enough financed to allow redeployment of expenditure between operations under the same heading where necessary in order to tackle unforeseen issues.

The "margin for unforeseen expenditure" between the own resources ceiling and the ceiling for payment appropriations has a dual role:

  • to allow the multiannual financial framework to be revised if necessary so as to cover any expenditure which is unforeseen when the financial perspective is adopted;
  • to leave a safety margin should economic growth be lower than forecast; should this be the case, actual GNI will be lower than expected and the ceiling for payment appropriations, which is an absolute amount, can be financed from the own resources margin, within the limits of the own resources ceiling expressed as a percentage of GNP.

Link with the own resources system

The overall ceiling for commitment appropriations is obtained by adding together the various ceilings for individual expenditure headings. To check the compatibility of the financial perspective with the ceiling for own resources, which constitutes the absolute limit on the resources that the Member States can make available to the Union, an annual ceiling is also established for payment appropriations. This is an overall ceiling not broken down by expenditure heading. It is also expressed as a percentage of the Community's estimated gross national product (GNP).

Rules for applying the financial framework

The rules for applying the financial framework are laid down in the Interinstitutional Agreement, which contains the rules and procedures for the annual management of the financial framework (e.g. technical adjustments, adjustments connected with the conditions of implementation or with enlargement of the Union, and revision of the financial perspective). This makes it possible to improve the annual budgetary procedure.

Each year the Commission, under its own responsibility, makes a technical adjustment to the multiannual financial frameworkfor the coming year. This adjustment concerns the following operations:

  • as the multiannual financial framework is drawn up at constant prices, it has to be adjusted each year to take account of inflation so as to ensure that each expenditure heading retains its initial purchasing power. The technical adjustment is generally made at the beginning of year n-2 for a given year n on the basis of the most recent economic data and forecasts available. No subsequent technical adjustment is made for the year in question;
  • the ceiling on own resources is expressed as a percentage of GNI. Translation of this ceiling into an absolute figure means that, for the purposes of the technical adjustment, the calculation has to be based on the most recent data on Community GNI. It is at this point that compatibility between the total payment appropriations and available own resources is verified.

The Commission can also propose changes to the multiannual financial framework to the two arms of the budgetary authority in two cases:

  • re-scheduling of the payment appropriations available for structural operations where delays have been identified in the programming of such operations;
  • re-evaluation of the needs relating to certain headings as a result of the accession of new Member States.

The two arms of the budgetary authority may, following a proposal from the Commission, decide to revise the multiannual financial framework. This will enable the Community, while respecting the own resources ceiling, to take necessary action not foreseen at the time the financial perspective was drawn up.

See also

  • For further information, see the website of DG Budget

Last updated: 16.06.2011