The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is the planning instrument used by the European Union to establish what resources it can spend (for a minimum period of 5 years, usually extended to 7) to fund its activities. For example, the MFF determines the extent and distribution of the funds that the EU can use for economic and social cohesion, agricultural policies, investments in research and innovation and cooperation with third countries.
Upon proposal by the European Commission, the MFF is approved with the unanimous vote of the Member States at the EU Council, subject to the consent of the European Parliament (article 312 of the TFEU). At the same time, the rules on the resources system were discussed and approved, establishing how the budget will be funded.
The current MFF was approved in December 2013 and will expire on 31 December 2020. In view of the imminence of this deadline, negotiations of fundamental importance for the European Union and its Member States have to be started.
Even though official negotiations have not yet begun, in recent months the Commission submitted certain documents to encourage debate on the various options available in terms of the total amount of resources and how they will be divided among the various expenditure headings. Italy has also contributed to that debate. In April 2017, it submitted its position paper called “The Multiannual Financial Framework: a strategic instrument to serve the goals of the European Union”, followed by an Addendum, submitted in February 2018.
On 2 May last, the European Commission submitted the initial proposals for the future MFF covering the period 2021-2027. The Commission asked the Member States to give the Union a budget of 1,279 billion euro (around 1.1% of the gross national income of the Union of 27, slightly up on the 1% of the past). This amount should permit the EU to allocate sufficient resources to a number of new priorities (migration, security, defence) while continuing to ensure adequate funding for traditional EU investment policies such as cohesion and agricultural policies.
Italy expressed its appreciation at the Commission’s proposals, which are a good starting point for the negotiations that will be held in Brussels between the Member States. The Commission’s proposals include many of those “European public goods” that Italy has called attention to many times: investments in research and innovation; the digital sector; youth mobility and defense; creation of a real common European policy on migration, providing stable resources for both the reception and integration of migrants; and tackling the root causes of migration through cooperation with the countries of origin and transit countries. Italy also welcomed the idea of increasing funds for security and strengthening Europe’s role in the world, even though it still considers problematic the proposed absorption of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) into a single instrument for external action by the Union.
Italy is also opposed to potential cuts to the cohesion policy and common agricultural policy in view of their fundamental contribution towards maintaining adequate levels of investment in all European territories, and reinforcing economic and social convergence in the EU.
Italy also favours the introduction of new resources for the European Union budget and is therefore willing to examine the various options envisaged by the European Commission.