The European Union is an odd spender: unlike national states, it doesn't have to pay for most normal functions of government - like social security, defense or pensions. Its €925bn budget for the 2007-2013 period is therefore mostly dedicated to structural investments, subsidies and research.
Many groups have tried to track how the various funds are spent across projects and beneficiaries. The following page aims to provide an overview for those unfamiliar with the EU's funds, policies and often strange language.
The EU's financial planning happens on two levels: through a seven year plan (called the Multiannual Financial Framework) and through a budget, which is decided each year.
The system of agricultural subsidies (often called the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP) are by far the largest section of the spending. EU Transparency operates FarmSubsidy.org and FishSubsidy.org with great background information on these funds.
Three major funds are used to invest in various regions in Europe: the Regional Development Fund, Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund. Project funding is disbursed by each region and reported individually. In 2010, the Financial Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalists collected the data.
The EU also operates a large research programme (FP7), a nuclear research effort (EURATOM) and overseas development assistance programmes, some of which is managed independently of the budget (EDF). Additionally, the budget includes administrative costs for EU institutions.
This site is intended as a short briefing for journalists and citizens interested in the EU. It is necessarily incomplete, but we hope to continuously extend it. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please message our mailing list.
Many items listed on this page were contributed by experienced journalists. Special thanks to Caelainn Barr and Brigitte Alfter.
See the Research Notes.