Parliament, Council lock horns over 2023 Horizon budget

14 Jul 2022 | News

MEPs vow to overturn cuts proposed by member states in their new proposal for next year’s R&D budget. Christian Ehler MEP says overall cuts to research and innovation could be ‘well over’ €1B in 2023

Zbynek Stanjura, Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic.

The European Parliament has vowed to fight cuts to the 2023 Horizon Europe budget, following the European Council’s proposal to take €663 million off the draft budget put forward by the European Commission.

The cuts run across the research and innovation programme. According to the proposal agreed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, the European Research Council (ERC) would lose €122 million in 2023, €33 million is to go from Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and the research infrastructures will get €27 million less.

Of the clusters in Pillar II of Horizon Europe, which is addressing global challenges and Europe’s industrial  competitiveness, the 2023 budget for the microchips joint undertaking would be cut by €338 million. That is at a time when the EU is supposed to be putting a priority on developing its own semiconductors and becoming less dependent on imports from China.  

Member states also proposed a cut of €120 million to the EU’s contribution to the international nuclear fusion project, ITER.

In total, the Council's position for the next year's budget amounts to €183.95 billion in commitments. Compared to the budget agreed by the Council and the Parliament for this year, this would represent an increase of 8.29%.

The finance minister of the Czech republic, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council, said member states preferred a “prudent approach” to the EU budget and “adjusted” the figures proposed by the Commission. “I am pleased that we now have a solid basis for our negotiations with the European Parliament,” said Zbyněk Stanjura.

Member states emphasised that the 2023 budget also needs to build in sufficient margin to face uncertainties related to war in Ukraine and rising inflation.

The Parliament’s industry and research committee (ITRE) also met on Wednesday to vote on amendments to the 2023 budget for Horizon Europe. Some have warned that the Council’s budget proposal will harm investment in research and innovation at a time when the EU needs to develop new technologies to tackle the energy crisis and back plans to innovate in the digital sector.

At the same time, MEPs in the industry and research committee voted through an amendment to freeze €811 million in funding for the EIC Accelerator next year, until the Commission fixes outstanding management issues at the EIC Fund.

In addition to reversing the cuts proposed by the Council this week, MEPs also want member states to agree on allocating unspent money to the 2023 budget. They say decommitted research funds could be allocated to Horizon Europe as follows: €65 million to the ERC, €27 million to the MSCA programme, €12 million to EIT and €41 million to the EIC.

“We will fight this,” Horizon Europe co-rapporteur Christian Ehler said on Twitter.

Member states have refused in the past to use unspent money from the previous EU research programme, Horizon 2020.

According to Ehler, the €660 million cut, together with the member states’ refusal to make available decommitted funds amounts to a loss of “well over” €1 billion for science research and innovation in the 2023 budget.

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