The European Union budget and the Next Generation EU Recovery Plan: a game changer?

The inflow of asylum-seekers in 2015 due to the war in Syria and Iraq, the rise of China’s power on the international scene, accelerating climate change, Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic are among the major challenges the European economy and society has faced in the last decade.

In such an exceptional context, the European authorities have concluded and ratified an agreement on both the new Multiannual Financial Framework endowed a budget of €1 100 billion and a temporary €750 billion Recovery Plan dubbed Next Generation EU, and their implementation is now underway.

This article provides an economic reading of the EU budget and the NGEU Recovery Plan with a focus on the Belgian perspective. It examines in particular whether the new fiscal programme is a game changer for the EU or not. To what extent does the Recovery Plan boost growth, does it promote convergence between economies and cohesion between regions that have taken a bashing from the pandemic, and will it answer today’s environmental and digital challenges?