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Thesis defence

Constructing the European Union's Budget

Origins, Continuities, and Consequences

Add to calendar 2024-02-23 14:30 2024-02-23 16:30 Europe/Rome Constructing the European Union's Budget Emeroteca, Badia Fiesolana and zoom YYYY-MM-DD


23 February 2024

14:30 - 16:30 CET


Emeroteca, Badia Fiesolana

and zoom

PhD thesis defence by Johanna Breuer

The European Union’s budget is a transfer budget, unlike the budget of a fiscal (federal) state. Its role is to maintain a level of equality between member states and to sustain the functioning of the single market. But the ongoing agreement and institutionalisation of welfare related spending takes place at the national level and within national communities. The emergence of this transfer budget is not an incidental process. We know that member states are reluctant to integrate core state powers, and fiscal powers are core state powers. But the categorisation does not explain why and how member states have retained power over their fiscal capacities over the last seven decades.

Based upon freshly collected archival material covering the time span from 1950 until 1979, five case studies show that preventing the integration of fiscal capacities was achieved through active political work by the member states. A period of institutional openness between 1950 and the 1970s shaped a path-dependency that, from then on, was not altered anymore but only reinforced. This path-dependency, here referred to as an underlying budgetary logic, steers what is considered appropriate for the budget. Maintaining this logic allows member states to predict their gains and losses through their budgetary contribution, the juste retour dynamic. Changes in the budget system frequently take place, but the underlying budgetary logic always remains the same.

When there is a functional need for budgetary instruments that do not follow this logic, for example to stabilise the single market or to facilitate aid in times of crisis, the EU institutions resort to two strategies that can be traced throughout European budgetary history. Either they agree on budgetary instruments outside of the budget in fiscal galaxies, or they temporarily deviate from the underlying budgetary logic, which in the long-run safeguards the underlying budgetary logic.

Johanna Lorraine Breuer (she/her) holds a BA from the University of Passau and an MA from the University of Maastricht in European Studies. Her dissertation, written at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, focuses on the historical origins of the European Union’s budget, with an emphasis on historical path dependencies and ensuing long-term consequences that have an impact on EU budgetary policy today. Her research also covers the relationship between public finances and intersectional inequalities, as well as the broader institutional dynamics of European integration. In spring 2024, Johanna will continue her academic career at Leuphana University (Lüneburg, Germany).

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