The adoption of the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the long-term budget for the period 2021–2027, marked an end to difficult negotiations. The financial framework sets the maximum amount each year for broad policy areas in the EU budget and fixes an overall annual ceiling on payment and commitment appropriations. As a result, it shapes EU policies for years to come. Labelled 'a historic budget for a historic moment', the prolonged negotiations were considered as polarized and politicized as never before. They had their roots in the euro crisis and the ideational struggles about the EMU economic governance, controversies around the arrival and reception of forced migrants in 2015, and challenges of how to address the economic and social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This introduction to the edited volume 'EU Policymaking at a Crossroads: Negotiating the 2021–2027 Budget' foregrounds the 'struggle over ideas' (Stone) that unfolded during the negotiations and shows how research on European integration can benefit from an interpretive focus on meaning and discourse.