Horizon Europe faces cut of €12B, warns MEP

14 Nov 2019 | News

Horizon Europe rapporteur Christian Ehler gives MEPs on the ITRE committee first indication of how much the research programme is likely to be trimmed

Horizon Europe rapporteur, MEP Christian Ehler. © European Union 2018

The EU’s next research programme, Horizon Europe, faces a cut of €12 billion, according to Christian Ehler, one of the MEPs who steered it through the European Parliament.

Speaking at the parliament committee on Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE) on Tuesday afternoon, Ehler said he had heard that morning from the European Commission about the Finnish presidency’s latest proposal on the overall budget. “We are talking about €12 billion cuts from Horizon Europe,” he said.

It was already clear the proposed Horizon Europe budget is threatened, but this is the first time anyone involved in shaping the programme has indicated how much could be cut.

Research is getting trimmed back because some countries want to reduce overall EU spending, while others are vehemently defending the structural funds and agriculture subsidies, the two largest slices of the budget. Since every member state has veto, that puts research on the chopping block by default.

Last month, Finland, as holder of the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council, proposed a compromise that would involve some cuts, but didn’t specify what would happen to the research budget.

The size of the cut to Horizon Europe appears to have been raised during a meeting between Ehler and the departing budget commissioner Günther Oettinger and incoming research commissioner Mariya Gabriel. Incumbent research commissioner Carlos Moedas, the next budget commissioner Johannes Hahn, and Horizon Europe’s other rapporteur, Dan Nica, were not present.

In the ITRE meeting Ehler was addressing Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the European Research Council (ERC). If there is a cut of €12 billion, ERC could see €2-3 billion sliced from its proposed budget of €16.6 billion, Ehler said, urging Bourguingon to publicly oppose this. “You’re lobbying the European institutions in the traditional way, but shouldn’t the ERC be going out a little bit more?” he asked Bourguignon. “What could we do to go more public, to convince the member states that if we cut the budget by €12 billion, we immediately, proportionately cut the ERC by two or three billion, which is a contradiction to the ambition and the needs of the ERC.”

The EU has proposed a budget of €94.1 billion for Horizon Europe, up from €77 billion for Horizon 2020, the current research programme that finishes at the end of next year. Both figures factor-in inflation estimates over each programme’s seven-year lifespan, so either number could turn out higher or lower if these estimates are off.

That means a €12 billion cut would, on paper, leave Horizon Europe just a little larger than Horizon 2020, but the cut could turn out smaller if the inflation gods cause the numbers to shift.

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