Seize our common future: latest on long-term EU budget negotiations

21 November 2019

In November, EUA published the joint call “Seize our common future”, which it launched with 14 other university networks. The call gathered over 300 signatories, including 25 national university associations. EUA presented the call to both to the outgoing and incoming EU Commissioners for research. EUA has also provided its members with different materials to support the sector’s call for increased EU investment in research and innovation.

Since spring 2019, when the European Parliament and the EU Council achieved a “common understanding” on the structure and rules for the future Horizon Europe programme, the procedure has been formally on hold, waiting for the new Commission to take up its role (possibly in place in December) and for the member states to agree on the distribution of the funds for the MFF 2021-2027.

The EU budget is under pressure from various sides: Brexit means that the EU loses a big net payer, and in addition some member states are questioning if EU spending has enough added value. Several countries have already made clear they do not support an increase of the overall size of the budget (notably Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden). At the same time, other sectors call for additional investments to support new policy priorities, while other sectors continue to be strong. There is tension particularly around the Common Agricultural Policy and the European Structural Funds (cohesion).

The Finnish Presidency of the EU Council made proposals on the overall distribution of funds across programmes in October. Last week, MEP Christian Ehler, rapporteur for the Horizon Europe Specific Programme, expressed concerns that this proposal could include large cuts to the R&I programme, when compared to the European Commission’s initial proposal.

While it is part of the EU negotiation dynamics that the member states would put forward budget figures at a lower level, this serves as an important reminder to the sector to continue to reach out to national ministries and argue for strong EU investment in research and innovation. EUA continues to support the ambitious position of the European Parliament and is mobilising its membership to this effect.

In a parallel process, on 18 November the EU Council and European Parliament agreed on the EU annual budget for 2020 – the final year of the current funding programmes. A positive signal was sent to universities with increases both to Horizon 2020 and to Erasmus+, above the levels set by the Commission in its draft budget proposal.

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