1. Involve the people. The future EU budget must innovate in how it involves and empowers citizens, communities and local authorities in EU spending to build a brighter future for Europe. This can help improve transparency and accountability.

While positive elements, like the ‘Partnerships Principle’ in some funding streams must be strengthened, the next EU budget cycle should move towards genuine participation of citizens and civil society in EU spending.

Piloting new tools, such as participatory budgeting, could be a powerful and timely statement about building democracy together in Europe. These tools should involve a diversity of citizens and focus on building a society we want to live in: flourishing, inclusive, resilient and zero carbon communities.

Citizen investment platforms for things like renewable energy, or using digital, cultural and civic space to engage people, all hold high potential to build renewed sense of ownership and belief in the European project.

Civil society should also see how the interests of taxpayers are safeguarded through strengthened rules and institutions to fight corruption, and they should have the right tools to make governments and other beneficiaries accountable for the use of EU money.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget works for the people and with the people, with greater transparency, respectful of diversity and meaningful participation of the citizens. (Sustainability principle 1)

2. Strengthen European values. The future EU budget should increasingly support core European values like democracy and participation, social and environmental justice, cultural diversity, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights.

While some excellent programmes already exist, such as Erasmus, less than 2% of the EU budget is set aside for building citizenship, which should include fostering these values.

We know the EU budget can contribute more to the building of strong democracies, and could also exert stronger muscle in safeguarding these values through conditions, or the allocation of funding to targeted programmes fighting the erosion of these values.

The cultural space also has a huge and untapped role to play here in building shared identity, common dreams, and commitment to building socially and environmentally sustainable, flourishing, inclusive Europe.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget strengthens the common European values, in Europe and globally. (Sustainability principle 2)

3. Look after the vulnerable. The future EU budget must do more for those people that the ‘growth jobs and competitiveness’ story left behind.

About 17% of Europeans are at risk of poverty, around 11% are affected by energy poverty, and unacceptable numbers of citizens are homeless or unable to afford health care.  

Inequalities continue to grow within many regions and cities across Europe, While the EU budget cannot pay for everything, it is clear that through  reform it could achieve much more. This includes new or improved targeted programmes, where gaps exist, and ensuring that EU supported programmes do not inadvertently increase inequalities or social exclusion.

Providing support to the most vulnerable to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation is part of this vision. Europe should also better address social inequalities in its external support.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget increases well-being and contributes to decreasing inequality and social exclusion at all scales. (Sustainability principle 3)

4. Write a new economy strategy for the Union – with sustainable well-being, not merely GDP, at its heart.

A new narrative is needed for the EU budget. We need to rethink how to measure the topline impact of the EU budget and how it is allocated, by introducing alternative economic indicators that speak about genuine progress – the well-being of Europeans, and the long term health of the environment in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ensuring EU supported projects become synonymous with the highest and most forward looking standards, and allocating sufficient resources to support systemic change towards the EU’s overarching policy goals is how the EU can demonstrate greatest added value.

Better integrating the use of funds and reconciling contradictory funding objectives could achieve long lasting positive impact and change the lives of many people for the better. Programmes for economic diversification, job creation, fighting climate change, and facilitating cultural dialogue can become much more mutually reinforcing.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget takes a holistic approach, support systems change and promote innovation, which is required for the transition to sustainability and building a circular economy. (Sustainability principle 4)

5. Bring EU Funds closer to citizens. Make benefits of EU funded programmes more accessible to households, communities and progressive local authorities of any size. Stop favouring huge companies and large farmers.

National governments must no longer deny citizens access to EU funded programmes. As one example, too often, low-income households cannot afford co-financing requirements to retrofit their homes.

A Community power facility, or other targeted and innovative financing is also needed for communities wishing to invest in renewable energy. Without fixing these things, EU priorities like the citizen led energy transition will not materialise on time.  

Civil society organisations working for youth or public health often struggle accessing EU funded programmes geared towards large corporations. And progressive local authorities deserve a stronger role in working with communities and civil society to direct EU finance to build a sustainable Europe from the bottom up.  

Several programmes within the EU budget require rebalancing, away from favouring huge players, and towards smaller players, not ignoring social entrepreneurship and the creation of the resilient, localised economies we need.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget serves a diversified and resilient economy and society, where the full potential of all communities, organisations and businesses of any size is fully achieved. (Sustainability principle 5)

6. Prevent bad and wasteful spending. All EU spending and lending should benefit the people in an equitable fashion in the final instance, rather than corporate profit. Investments should meet environmental and social returns where possible, and certainly should not do harm.

The EU budget should serve the public good and benefit the people, rather than any company. All forms of subsidies to fossil fuels related investments must be excluded from the future EU budget, as no investment creating such harmful environmental legacy serves the public good.

There should be no place for military research in the EU research programme. The EU is a peace project. We should invest in jobs and research projects that contribute to the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts, and programmes that unlock social innovation and respond to the current societal challenges, such as climate change, or cancer.

Publicly funded research on health should benefit all citizens by ensuring equitable access to the resulting medicines or technologies.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget serves the public good. (Sustainability principle 6)

7. Safeguard the future. The EU budget must do more to stop environmental degradation. It must be brought in line with the Paris Agreement on climate and with other environmental objectives.

The next EU budget cycle must increase both the quantity, and quality of climate spending and be in line with the commitments of the Paris Agreement.We need to design the budget to incentivise higher ambition from Member States and support citizens to transition towards low carbon lifestyles and other environmental objectives. Also, we cannot afford to invest in false solutions, which instead of tackling the real problems only export them elsewhere or shift unacceptable risks on burdens on to future generations.  

We need to design the budget to incentivise higher ambition from Member States and support citizens to transition towards low carbon lifestyles and other environmental objectives.

Also, we cannot afford to invest in false solutions, which instead of tackling the real problems only export them elsewhere or shift unacceptable risks on burdens on to future generations.  

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget contributes to decreasing the total environmental pressures (use of natural resources, use of land and emissions of waste, toxic substances, greenhouse gases and alien genotypes) to return to within planetary boundaries, and should not contribute to shifting of environmental pressures in time and space. (Sustainability principle 7)

8. Allow nature to deliver ecosystem services. These are the very foundation of our society and economy.

People cannot survive without nature. We need to restore nature’s capacity in Europe and the world to provide the life supporting function to people and all living beings.

As people increasingly recognise these benefits, over 500,000 Europeans answered the consultation on the ‘Fitness Check of the EU Nature Directives” in 2015, asking the EU to do more in this field. The future EU budget must respond to the alarming trends in our natural capital, and should set aside sufficient funds for nature, and Natura 2000, which represent the most valuable natural values in Europe.

We call on European and national decision makers to ensure that the EU budget contributes to improving the state of environment and maintaining and restoring ecosystem services, which is the very foundation of our society and economy. (Sustainability principle 8)

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