The European Commission has just opened a new window on how the EU spends a huge chunk of its budget.
An open data portal allows access to information on EU investments across more than 500 policy programs within six large funds. Internet users can explore the data by country, fund and theme.
Whether your passion is a “balanced fishing fleet,” youth employment or the bridges of rural Bulgaria, there is a program and a budget line for you.
But until now, finding out just where the money was supposed to be going was a complicated process that only experts could navigate. Now information is collected in one place, searchable and free to use.
We took a first look around. Here are nine of the most interesting facts about EU spending.
1. Pole position
Which country gets the most money? In absolute terms Poland wins double what any other EU country gets out of various EU investment funds, with close to €86 billion compared to next placed Italy with a little under €43 billion set aside from 2014-2020.
2. The Lithuania lobby
The payments to Poland during the seven-year period work out to €2,232 per person. But Lithuania does better on a per capita basis; the country’s total EU subsidies from the listed programs are worth €2,837 per person.
3. There are handouts for Germany, too
Germany is usually seen as Europe’s economic powerhouse and pocketbook, but it actually collects a lot of EU development funds. In fact, what Berlin gives with its left hand, it takes with its right, because while EU contributions are paid by national governments, development funds are dished out to specific regions. Germany still has several poor regions on the receiving end of EU largesse, even 25 years after the reintegration of the east and west. So it will take back that €27,872,862.460. Danke!
4. The world’s most expensive playing field
EU politicians and officials often speak about the importance of creating level playing fields. The analogy is deployed to explain everything from competition to trade policy, and also to justify why smaller businesses need government subsidies. And the EU gives out a lot of them: Between 2014 and 2020, €63.4 billion will be allocated in an attempt to help small and medium-sized businesses be more competitive globally, for example by providing exactly 370,085 of Europe’s 23 million small firms with financial advice.
5. Big spending on climate change
The climate deal reached in Paris was all words, but the new Commission database shows the EU is certainly putting its money where its mouth is 0n the issue of combating global warming. Climate change-related activity is the biggest thematic winner in the EU budget. Though the Commission splits this funding into two separate categories (€44.96 billion for transition to the “low carbon economy” and €29.13 billion for climate change adaptation and risk prevention), added up that’s a €64.83 billion for all things climate. But wait, there’s more! The EU has also allocated €60 billion for “environmental protection and resource efficiency,” contributing to both lower carbon emissions and a skyrocketing green budget.
6. Young farmers: the EU needs you!
The EU wants to fund exactly 175,407 of you to develop your business plan. Please form an orderly queue. The reason? Only 14 percent of farmers in Europe are under 40 years old, they struggle to obtain land, and the ones that do get to rent or buy land tell the EU they need more entrepreneurial and technical skills to thrive in a global market.
7. The target is the achievement
The portal has a section for achievements, but given we are only one year into the seven-year EU budget, the list isn’t very long yet. Until it grows, the EU has simply listed its targets as its achievements, clarifying that these are “expected achievements.” You know, like the way you always got 100 percent in your exams and are never late for appointments.
8. Oops! Double-dipping on open-space renovation
As you can see from the following graphs, the EU seems very keen on renovating “open space,” whatever that means. The database lists two different targets for this.
9. Organic land
The EU’s open-plan ambitions pale in comparison to its interest in organic produce. The EU is planning to provide funds to support more than 10 million hectares of organic farmland, an area that is twice the size of Switzerland, as part of its plan to diversify crops and “green” its massive Common Agricultural Policy. The EU has also created an organic logo and runs a kids’ corner complete with cartoon books such as Julia and Steven’s Adventures in the world of organic farming.