R&D-sabotage by northern Europe

Nieuws | de redactie
19 september 2013 | Twenty percent of all R&D-commitments cannot be paid next year, adding up to €1.1 billion. Director Robert-Jan Smits predicts serious problems if Finance Ministers, in particular of the northern EU-members, fail to deliver on their commitments.

The financial commitments and financial payments have started to diverge more and more each year. In 2012 the Erasmus Programme faced a €90 million deficit, making it impossible for the EU to reimburse national Erasmus agencies for money paid to students.

This is not at all about Europe exceeding its budget. It’s about Member States that, after having reached a financial decision, don’t foot the bill.

An urgent plea

Robert-Jan Smits (General Director, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission) now fears the research budget is heading in the same direction as Erasmus last year. In the European Parliament he made an urgent plea: “We are facing a payment credit shortage of 1 billion euro next year, if Member States do not fulfill their financial commitments.”

To ScienceGuide he outlined the urgency of the issue. “We are now selecting research projects that we might not be able to pay for next year. It is a very strange situation: there is a research budget of €4.9 billion, but only €3.8 billion can be paid. That’s a gap of €1.1 billion for next year alone.”

In addition he stated that Europe’s research budget almost completely used. “This year only 238 euro was not spent – not 238 thousand euros, but just two hundred thirty-eight euros. Budget Commissioner Lewandowski used us as a good example of efficiency.”

Northern cuts

Where does the problem of come from? Smits notes that it is mainly the northern Member States that try to wriggle out of their financial obligations.

Smits: “And ironically, it is the northern countries that receive the largest share of the European research budget.” Add to this the fact that many national research budgets are slashed, it will not be long before universities and other research institutions will start to feel the pain.

The question remains why the recipients of European research funds aren’t much more vocal about the possible cut of €1.1 billion. “I think that the League of European Research Universities, LERU, should voice the protest”, says Smits showing his mailcorrespondence with LERU Secretary General Kurt Deketelaere on his smartphone.

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