Has the Commission taken the right choices in preparing the 2008/2009 budgetary review? Despite the fact that the Council mandate describes the review as a comprehensive assessment of both expenditures and revenues, there are hints that the Commission will concentrate on the first. In fact, in the Commission’s speeches and documents, the budgetary review is frequently portrayed as a policy-driven exercise to discuss future EU priorities and spending needs. This paper argues that such a narrow focus on expenditures is not coherent with the Commission’s ambition to use the review to catalyse a “further-reaching reform of EU finances”.
An analysis of the political circumstances shaping the forthcoming budgetary negotiations indicates that the budgetary review, if conducted as a policy-driven debate on EU spending priorities, has little leap of triggering major changes in EU spending allocation, even less a major and far-reaching reform of the EU budgetary system. Apart from promoting a debate on EU spending priorities (a debate “within the rules”), it is argued that the 2008/2009 review should serve to discuss major reforms in the structure and functioning of the EU budgetary system (a debate “on the rules”).