The EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework – A reflection of Europe’s political priorities


MFF – The abbreviation stands for the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework, the European Union’s budget for a seven-year period. It is not just a matter of money. The EU’s budget expenditure also sets its political priorities.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has advocated investing more in the EU budget, for instance in education, research, digital infrastructure and a joint foreign policy for the EU: “So every euro we pay into the EU budget comes back to us – directly or indirectly – several times over,” the Minister has said. The EU budget was also a topic at the Federal Foreign Office Open Day: visitors were invited to vote for their ideal budget.

What is the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF)?

Open Day visitors voting for EU budget priorities
Open Day visitors voting for EU budget priorites© AA

The German Bundestag decides each year how much the German budget is going to be. At European level, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) fixes the EU’s maximum budget for a period of seven years. The MFF sets down the ceilings that the EU is permitted to spend on individual policy fields each year, i.e. the maximum amount that can be spent on research in a year. This ensures that the EU’s annual expenditure is predictable. Over the next few months, the European Commission will be presenting its proposals for the next MFF, which will be valid from 2021.

Budget priorities: What Open Day visitors would like to see

Open Day at the Federal Foreign Office, visitors were invited to take a look at the subject and then vote for what they thought the EU should spend its money on. They could place three coins on ballot boxes representing the different policy fields to show where they felt the priorities should lie.

The results of this admittedly unscientific and unrepresentative survey showed very clear preferences. People would invest most in education and research, climate and environment, foreign and security policy, and economic promotion. The current MFF focuses on payments to the agricultural sector under the Common Agricultural Policy and on assistance for structurally weak regions of the EU.

In any event, the MFF is very important when it comes to fixing the European Union’s priorities, and the negotiations on the next MFF will impact on many policy fields.

Find out more:

Multiannual Financial Framework and Europe's budget

Article by Foreign Minister Gabriel: "Germany: not a net contributor to Europe, but a net winner from Europe"