The European Parliament and EU Council negotiating team finally agreed on the EU’s multiannual financial framework, a process made more complex than ever this time due to the pandemic and the related new recovery package, the difficulties of striking a deal among member states, and the strongly diverging negotiating positions of the two institutions.
The final agreement, which will still need to be formally approved, offers some improvement compared to the deal struck in July. This is the result of continued efforts by the European Parliament, who kept fighting for reinforcement of future-oriented programmes like Horizon Europe.
Horizon Europe is now set to receive 84,9bn Euros, meaning that its budget is increased by 4bn Euros compared to the July deal (75.9bn Euros in the MFF, supplemented with 5bn Euros in Next Generation EU, the recovery package). Erasmus+, for its part, is now set to reach 23,4bn Euros, compared to 21,2bn agreed in July.
EUA has continuously supported the European Parliament’s actions and campaigned with its members to make the case for investing more in research and education and the respective programmes. Although today’s outcome still falls short of what is necessary to solve the current challenges, EUA welcomes the priority given to Horizon Europe, which receives the largest top-up. It is also a positive signal for programmes to start on time. The long-term campaign led by the Association has contributed to this final push for investment in R&I and education. EUA also welcomes the reinforcement of the emblematic flagship Erasmus+ programme, which needs the additional funding in light of the increasingly diverse missions it has been assigned.
It is nevertheless clear that an important opportunity has been missed; the immense challenges we collectively face – even before the pandemic struck – called for a much more ambitious approach and greater investment in Research & Innovation at European level, where synergies and critical mass can be best achieved. It is now important that the right decisions are made when allocating funds within Horizon Europe, and that funding for the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions is increased. It is also crucial that member states and public authorities in general further align their investment efforts – also using other European funds where possible – to generate greater impact and enable scientists to help build more resilient societies. The national recovery plans under Next Generation EU are a first and important milestone, and the sector should take the opportunity to engage with these.
EUA commits to continuing communicating the unique added value of EU investment in research and innovation, and to working together with the EU institutions to ensure funding is used in the best possible way.
UPDATE - 20 November 2020: The agreement between the EU institutions requires unanimity among member states to be fully adopted. This week, Poland and Hungary have blocked this process as disagreement persists on the mechanism linking EU payments to the respect of rule of law. The actual agreement on the multiannual financial framework was however not put into question. The issue will be addressed at the next European Council in December.