European leaders meet this week on 17-18 July with the goal of reaching an agreement on the European Union’s next seven-year budget and the related recovery plan to help the EU’s economy back on its feet. On this occasion, EUA and 14 partner university associations reiterate the urgent need to invest in research, innovation and education to precisely achieve long-term, sustainable recovery, as well as strategic resilience for the continent.
In a common statement, a united university sector reminds governments that Europe needs a strong, collective knowledge and skills base to address the current crisis and challenges to come – whichever shape they may take. Therefore, it is crucial to upgrade funding to Horizon Europe as a whole, and particularly enhance support to fundamental, curiosity-driven research, via the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions and the European Research Council. This means that research investment should be increased within the next Multiannual Financial Framework, in addition to reinforcements proposed under the recovery plan Next Generation EU. The investment must go beyond figures proposed earlier this year, given the new magnitude of Europe’s needs.
Simultaneously, the EU must also meet its ambitions with adequate resources for Erasmus+, a programme that is expected to support EU goals with regard to the green and digital transitions, the reinforcement of mobility, enhanced social inclusion, as well as the European Universities Initiative.
EUA has underlined that education, research and innovation hold the key to Europe’s long-term recovery and resilience.
Unfortunately, the proposal put forward by European Council President Charles Michel on 10 July shows that there is still limited awareness of this. Reducing investment in research and innovation, which is needed now more than ever, is putting our future at risk. The applied logic that comparatively small additional funds will be provided under Next Generation EU is not acceptable. This is particularly true when considering that the 13.5 billion euros made available under this temporary instrument will target only very specific areas of research, rather than contribute to transversally consolidating our knowledge base for the future. The new proposal also scales back Erasmus+ in a way that effectively prevents the programme from achieving the new and higher ambitions assigned to it.
EUA and its members – national university associations and universities alike – will relay these messages to national decision-makers and members of the European Parliament. Time is limited: an agreement must be reached before the end of the year if the new programmes are to start in January 2021. It is crucial that universities, given their importance for innovative knowledge and transformation, are enabled to play their full part in the common recovery effort.