Nobody cares what we spend our money on

All we know that no decision was made last week in Brussels on how much money the EU should spend in the next programming period (MFF). Besides Van Rompuy’s detailed and complicated figures and plans, it is pretty evident that the debate is about the possibility to redistribute the European Budget among Member States.

If one takes a short look to the operating budgetary balance of the Member States, it becomes evident that Poland, Greece, Hungary, Spain and Portugal are the greatest recipients of the current system, while Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Netherlands are the biggest contributors in absolute terms. This picture varies, of course, if we analyse the balance per capita or as a proportion of GDP. It is also evident that the former group wants to save the status quo, while the latter wants to cut the budget.


If we compare the figure above with the one below, it turns out that expenditure on agriculture and rural development by country shows a great diversity among Member States as well. Denmark, Ireland and Austria spend around 70% of their expenditure on agriculture and rural development, while this rate in Malta, Belgium and Lithuania is just around 5-10%. The average is around 40-45%, as we know well. The agricultural interests of the MS are easy to be guessed from the two figures.

Source: Own composition based on

One might generate other nice figures to demonstrate how big or small the CAP budget is or how CAP spending is related to factors of production in a country. However, the more figures we create, the more we go into details and will not see the wood for the trees. Unfortunately, the essence seems to have far lost somewhere among the large dossiers, the pressing deadlines and the continuous negotiations.

The whole EU spending, including Cohesion and CAP spending as the two biggest elements, seems to have lost touch with reality. It appears that decision makers and analysts are so busy in front of their computers that they forget to open the window and see what is going on outside. If they did that, they would see that not continuous support is needed in agriculture to farmers but long term reliability in markets. They would also see that rural job creation is more important than lookout tower construction. Or they would realise that support for changing the colour of the pavements in an urban street will not help urban poor feed their children.

The previous months were full of different campaigns of the agrarian lobby to save the overall CAP budget or else, they threaten with a global food and natural disaster. It seems that nobody cares what and how we spend our money on – we just want to spend as much as we can. So the ‘who gets what game has started’ and the only thing we can hope is that those who see us from above will shut their eyes.

This post was written by Attila Jambor.

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2 Replies to “Nobody cares what we spend our money on”

    1. I suspect ‘this’ means the share of agriculture and rural expenditure in total expenditure. I have simply divided all the ag. expenditure of each country by a country’s total expenditure. This comes from Commission data.

      However, if ‘this’ relates to the first figure, then it comes directly from the source indicated.

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