Author: Marie Latour, Head of Office, Zabala Brussels
This week, the EU research ministers have agreed on the final details of Horizon Europe:
To begin with, they agree on a linear cut across its programmes to reflect the outcome of the July budget summit (from €94.4 billion to €80.9 billion in 2018 prices) this represents a decrease of more than 14% from the European Commission's (EC) original proposal. In current prices, this is equivalent to a budget of €90.9 billion, of which €5.4 billion comes from the Next Generation EU budget, as part of the recovery plan.
However, under pressure from Germany and Austria, the ministers decided to increase the funding for Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions by €200 million over the next seven years, with money coming from the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) budget (which sees its budget cut by 2%). Spain and Ireland were opposed to a further cut of the EIC budget or to guarantee the grant part of EIC.
The ministers gathered last Tuesday, also agreed on the possibility to use EU structural funds to finance industrial research partnerships in the future.
They agreed that Horizon Europe should follow “a very flexible approach” in spending the top-up from the recovery fund. The idea is to prioritise projects with high TRL levels that address the health and economic effects related to the coronavirus pandemic.
With regards to Europe’s technology sovereignty, the rules for non-EU countries to participate in Horizon Europe were adopted, including a new provision intended to protect Europe’s technological sovereignty. The provision will limit the participation of legal entities established in the EU, or in associated countries, if the commission and member states find “justified and exceptional reasons.” This is to balance between openness and the need for protection of strategic European interests. The EC could start negotiations with individual countries in 2021 at the earliest, and will have to consult with the Council before making any decision.
Now Horizon Europe’s budget and adoption is the hands of the European Parliament (EP) which will have the final word. While the EP was advocating for a budget of €120 billion in the initial phases of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations, the position from most active EP members is to maintain the initial budget proposed by the EC in 2018. Some EP members have proposed that Horizon Europe could be topped up with money raised by new taxes levied by the EU. The debate on EU’s own resources is not over.
Read EWGIC’s position paper on the MFF.