The EU has so far managed to avoid answering some of the fundamental questions that have been troubling the block for years: How will Brexit affect the remaining countries? Whose responsibility is the migration crisis and how can Member States better tackle terrorism? Can Member States refuse to abide to European values (e.g. the principle of solidarity in the refugee crisis) and still benefit from the EU funds? … But the discussion on the new EU budget is bringing all the chickens home to roost and will force the EU and its Member States to find a middle ground on many of these thorny issues.

On 2 May, the EU published the proposal for the next seven-year budget, which covers the amount of money the organisation will be able to spend, invest and award to players and projects in the EU for the period 2021-2027. Though it may seem boring and uneventful on the surface, the adoption of the EU budget will be the one thing that will force Member States to discuss and hopefully agree on a shared vision for the future of the EU.

To start, this will be the first budget to be agreed without the UK, and Member States will have to increase contributions to the EU in order to cover at least part of the estimated annual €12 billion gap created by the UK’s departure. It remains to be seen whether the proposed €1,279 billion budget, an increase of 15% over the previous period, will be agreed, as detractors complain that a Union of 27 shouldn’t be more expensive than one including 28 Member States.

The increased budget, however, is justified by many by the increased number of priorities of the EU, including security and migration. While the proposal foresees significant cuts to major programs dedicated to the agricultural sector (-5%) and regional development (-7%) – two areas that have been the cornerstone of EU spending since the early days – it introduces new priorities such as defence (€13 billion) and digital transformation (up to €9.5 billion). Winners of this proposal are, without doubt, the research and innovation fund, which received a 30% increase compared to the previous budget, and border control, migration and asylum policies which saw their allocation more than doubled in this proposal…

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