In inflationary times, the Council’s ‘prudent approach’ to accounting will see Horizon Europe get €166M less than the Commission has called for
Member states have pushed back on the European Commission’s proposal to increase spending on Horizon Europe by €400 million to €12.8 billion in 2024, and also called for cuts in other research and innovation programmes next year.
Instead of €400M more, member states have put forward a budget proposal that they say takes a more “prudent approach”, allocating €166 million less than the Commission asked for, to ensure that the research budget is fully spent with no leftovers.
Every year, around 5% of the money committed to research in framework programmes does not make it to scientists. These are so-called decommitments and member states and the European Parliament have been haggling over the fate of this unspent money for years.
In EU-speak, the budget commitments are a legal promise to spend money on various EU activities, while the payments cover the expenditures that arise from those budget commitments.
To avoid a fresh surplus of decommitted money in 2024, member states want to see cuts across the Commission’s draft budget.
In addition to the €166 million cut to Horizon Europe, €2 million has been cut from Euratom and €10 million from the EU’s contribution to the international nuclear fusion experimental reactor ITER. The Council has also proposed a €2 million cut to the EU agency for the space programme.
The Council says the cuts will ensure “the proper implementation” of the programmes and will help the EU avoid an “excessive increase” of unspent money in the final years of the multiannual budget.
According to the proposal put forward by the member states, if the figures show that the appropriations entered in the budget 2024 are insufficient to cover the needs, the Council will ask the Commission to amend the budget accordingly.
“Where applicable, the Council will take into account the urgency of the matter, shortening the eight-week period for a decision if deemed necessary,” the proposal says.
However, the Council noted that the reverse is also possible. If the figures show that the appropriations entered in the budget 2024 are higher than needed, then the Council will ask for further cuts.
The budget waltz between the member states on one side and the Commission and the Parliament on the other is not new.
Each year, the two sides fight over the size of the budget and research and innovation programmes are one of the points of contention. MEPs usually want a higher budget than the Commission’s proposal, member states want to cut it.
Last year, the Commission wanted to see €12.3 billion spent through Horizon Europe, topped up by an extra €1.8 billion in grants from the EU recovery fund, NextGenerationEU. To save money, member states wanted to slash the budget by €663 million.
The Parliament managed to defend Horizon Europe from further cuts but failed to get much more money. The final result was €12.4 billion.