Financing EU external action in the new MFF, 2021-2027: Heading 6 'Neighbourhood and the World'

Briefing 13-11-2019

In May 2018, the European Commission published its proposals for the new multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU's seven-year budget for the 2021-2027 period, followed by proposals for the MFF's individual sectoral programmes. In the proposals, financing external action is covered under Heading 6, 'Neighbourhood and the World', which replaces the current Heading 4, 'Global Europe'. Taking into account the evolving context both internationally and within the EU, as well as the conclusions of the current MFF's mid-term review, the Commission has proposed changes to the EU external action budget in order to make it simpler and more flexible, and to enable the EU to engage more strategically with its partner countries in the future. The proposed Heading 6 comes with increased resources and important structural changes. It envisages merging the majority of the current stand-alone external financing instruments into a single one – the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – as well as integrating into it the biggest EU external financing fund – the European Development Fund – currently outside the budget. Another proposed novelty is to set up an off-budget instrument – the European Peace Facility – to fund security and defence-related actions. With these changes, the Commission strives to take into account, among other things, the need for the EU to align its actions with its new and renewed international commitments under the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, the new EU Global Strategy, the European Consensus on Development, the European Neighbourhood Policy, and to make EU added value, relevance and credibility more visible. Negotiations on the 2021-2027 MFF are under way. The final decision is to be taken by the Council, acting by unanimity, with the European Parliament's consent. However, in view of current political realities and the financial implications of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the adoption of a modern budget for the future remains a challenge that is not limited to Heading 6. Further developments are expected by the end of 2019.