The EU’s 7 year budget was finally decided on by the European Heads of State last February. Since then a big silence is dominating the media. February’s long overdue deal on the next 7 year budget limits Europe’s expenditure to a maximum of €959.99 billion in commitments. This corresponds to 1.0% of the EU’s Gross National Income. For the first time in its history the EU saw the multiannual budget reduced with 3,4%, compared to the 2007-2013 period.
Imposing a general budget ceiling, doesn’t say much about the exact breakdown of the figures however. Interestingly, the European Council has written in a press release that they were “committed to increase the funding for the EU research programme ‘Horizon 2020’ and the ‘Erasmus for all’ programme in real terms.” The most recent figures show something different.
Anne Jensen is part of the EP’s negotiating team for the budget. Jensen: “In the latest proposal the research budget is cut with 15% compared to the initial Commission proposal of 80 billion. I think this is very unambitious. In comparison, the budget for Erasmus for all, for the next 7 year period is not hit that hard. But you have to remember that the Erasmus-budget is a lot smaller than that of Horizon 2020.”
Jensen finds it rather ironic that the budget for ‘promoting active European citizenship’ is cut in ‘The Year of the Citizen’ from €27 million to €22 million. These figures are however “not set in stone”, Jensen says. “It is the Commission’s translation of the direction the European Heads of State have taken in February.”
Crucially, the paper shows that the Horizon 2020-expenditure falls back in 2014 and only reaches current levels in 2017.
Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, figures adjusted post European Council conclusions, in millions
In the Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee there was fierce criticism on the figures above. Chairwoman Doris Pack said: “This is not a legislative paper and we shouldn’t consider it as such.”
She continued: “We already pay our Erasmus commitments from next year’s budget. I don’t run my household like that!” Last year part of the Erasmus-bills was rolled-over to 2013. The EP’s Budget Committee foresees that the EU will run out funds again before the end of 2013. According to the treaties the EU cannot have a deficit.
There will be consequences
Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), thinks that the European Parliament understood the figures well. “Keep in mind what we’ve always said: € 80 billion for research was really business as usual, especially since the Horizon 2020-programme is the former Framework Programme plus the CIP and EIT.”
“We really would have needed € 100 billion to keep all programmes running. If this becomes € 70 billion, you can be sure that there will be consequences. But let’s not anticipate the outcome, maybe we can still reach € 75 billion.”
On a positive note: this summer there could be some light at the end of the tunnel. This week Budget Commissioner Lewandowski hinted at a possible ‘mid-term-review’ for the 7 year budget. In a press release the Commissioner applauded “The Council’s willingness to discuss various issues of crucial importance to the European Parliament such as future flexibility of the EU budget, a mid-term review of the financial framework.”
This could mean a new round of negotiations in three years’ time. And with a bit of luck, and the worst of the economic crisis behind us, politicians might feel somewhat more generous towards research expenditure, which would have been necessary to escape the crisis in the first place.
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