The list of new challenges and tasks for the EU is extensive: the upcoming Brexit, the refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, the erosion of democratic structures and populist EU criticism in several member states, the protectionist policies of the US administration and the aggressive demeanour of Russia, China and Turkey - in the face of these troubled waters, the EU must demonstrate its capacity to act and set new priorities.

A look at current past EU budgets shows that most of the spending still falls on two areas (chart 2):

Between 2006 and 2016, spending on agricultural and structural policies totalled around 70 to 80 percent of the EU budget.

This high proportion is anachronistic, especially as far as agricultural expenditure is concerned. The share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in total gross value added at the beginning of the current MFF in 2014 was only 1.6% on the EU-28 average.

In February 2018, the European Commission proposed a menu of potential additional spending priorities for the EU. These include (apart from a funding gap of around € 73 billion from the UK's exit from the EU) € 40 to € 80 billion to boost research and development and up to € 146 billion to secure the EU's external borders.

Restructuring the budget without increasing it. However, the growing need for funding encounters resistance: a number of EU countries are strongly opposed to an increase in the EU budget, and some are even calling for a cutback because of Brexit. Indeed, a significant expenditure shift could easily avoid a budget increase. Such a shift also encounters strong opposition of the beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies and cohesion spending.