Although EU leaders agreed on a historic budget deal, it was done in part at the expense of research and innovation funding. This at a crucial time when science is called to play an increasingly important role to address the current and future challenges that lay ahead for Europe.
After intense and long discussions, on Tuesday 21 July, EU leaders showed the power of negotiation and compromise and reached a historic agreement for the future of Europe on the 2021-2027 EU budget and the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery plan.
Nonetheless, while maintaining the original Commission proposal of investing €750bn for the recovery plan (Next Generation EU), on top of the €1.07tn for the EU regular seven-year budget (Multiannual Financial Framework - MFF), the funding allocated across existing programmes has been affected by serious cuts in favour of higher rebates for some Member States. The final deal then may restrict the opportunities to efficiently collaborate across the EU on strategic, long-term initiatives needed to overcome the current crisis. The Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Framework Programme was not spared from the cuts: the sum of €94.4bn originally proposed by the European Commission in May, that already fell short of the €120bn supported by the EU Parliament and the R&I community, has been further reduced to a total of €80.9bn. The agreement meant cuts of €5bn to the core amount allocated through the EU budget (from €80.9bn to €75.9bn) and of €8.5bn (from €13.5bn to only €5bn) to the sum financed through the one-time fund, Next Generation EU.
According to Nils Røkke, President of EERA: "Recovery should not mean falling into old tracks of underspending the vehicle for research and innovation in Europe. Now is the time to show courage and believe in the facts, European R&I is hugely beneficial for our economy and the EP must maintain the call for a €120bn Horizon Europe budget".
Petter Støa, head of the EERA Policy Working Group and Vice President for Research at SINTEF, added “the cuts to Horizon Europe are disappointing. It is even more important now to ensure that the EU long-term objectives of significantly advancing the green and digital transition in Europe are protected in the further internal redistribution of the Horizon Europe budget. Instruments and resources pushing the green and digital transition as a collective effort should be prioritised according to the importance of the policies they support. Member States should not miss any opportunity to step up and coordinate their research efforts to make investment in the clean energy transition a success”.
The agreement reached by the Council will be further discussed by the European Parliament, while the internal allocation of the budget within Horizon Europe will be subject to specific legislation dedicated to the Framework Programme.