Strategies to overcome the ‘juste retour’ perspective on the EU budget

Giacomo Benedetto, Friedrich Heinemann, Fabian Zuleeg

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


A net budgetary balance is a highly misleading indicator of the benefits from EU spending and EU membership.Budgetary decisions taken on the basis of this indicator result in poor policies as they are biased towards programmes with monetary backflows into Member States. This ‘juste retour’ mentality is a major obstacle to achieving more European added value through the EU budget. The deeper underlying cause of this misleading and detrimental net balance preoccupation is the high salience and political appeal of backflow policies, with their easily identifiable national and regional beneficiaries. Policies whose European benefits are more dispersed and do not entail payments into Member States do receive less voter and policy support. This briefing sketches and discusses the following options that might correct this detrimental bias:
−a discontinuation of the official reporting of net operating balances;
−augmented indicators of national benefit;
−differentiated communication campaigns;
−higher budgetary flexibility to shift money between budget lines;
−institutional reforms (e.g. transnational party lists for the European Parliament) or a limit to national veto power on the budget;
−new own resources (e.g. genuine EU taxes);
−a ‘generalised correction mechanism’ based on predefined net balances;
−differentiated co-financing rates.

This briefing concludes that despite each suggestion’s specific weakness, a combination of measures could alleviate the damaging fixation with ‘budgetary juste retour’, which is a major obstacle for the EU to reach its ambitious European objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherEuropean Parliament
Commissioning bodyEuropean Parliament
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2020

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