With the focus on the energy crisis, the budget committee settles on the main negotiating lines for next year’s EU budget
The European Parliament’s budget committee on Monday voted through the Parliament’s negotiating position for the 2023 EU budget, including a €311 million top-up for the Horizon Europe research programme.
The budget set out by the Parliament will focus on tackling the multitude of crises facing Europe, with energy price increases and the war in Ukraine at the top of the list. “We ask to use all the margins and flexibilities to increase the most important lines,” said Nicolae Ștefănuță, MEP, rapporteur for the EU budget 2023.
This includes using unspent research money from previous years to invest in research and innovation to mitigate the energy crisis and to maintain investment in health research. MEPs want to assist refugees from Ukraine by putting extra money into the Horizon Europe’s researcher mobility programme, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
In addition to the top-ups, Parliament wants to reverse the €663 million cut to Horizon Europe proposed by the Council and to ringfence the research budget to prevent it from being used to fund new EU’s strategic initiatives, such as the Chips Act, which aims to promote development of the semiconductor sector.
But Ştefănuță believes the overall EU budget, agreed in 2020 before current crises blew up, is now too small. While there is no prospect of revising the seven-year budget for next year, in 2024, he hopes the European Commission and the Council will agree to add more money. The COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, energy crisis, war and new candidate countries, “All these [are] blows to the budget - and the budget is unchanged for the moment,” said Ştefănuță. “The budget is tighter than it has ever been, so the multiannual financial framework needs to be revised urgently.”
In terms of Parliament’s approach to the 2023 budget, its position is realistic and avoids ‘the Christmas tree approach,’ where MEPs add billions that don’t exist to the budget before entering negotiations with the Council, Ştefănuță said.
Parliament is now nearing a three-week negotiating period with member states to reach a deal for next year’s budget. But the budget committee’s resolution must first pass through a Parliament plenary in a vote scheduled for the 17-20 October session.
Following yesterday’s vote, the numbers Parliament will vote on are set, but there’s still a vote in the budget committee due on 10 October on an accompanying resolution, which will detail the final position to be put to the vote in the plenary.
MEPs will also still be able to table amendments in the plenary vote. When it comes to research, one remaining question is the freezing of the budget for the European Innovation Council’s (EIC) Accelerator programme. Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee (ITRE) wants to see €811 million pencilled in for the EU start-up fund put into reserve, to give the EIC time to address implementation problems that have been plaguing the Accelerator in the past year and a half. The amendment is set to be put to a vote in the plenary by the ITRE committee. It’s already been put up for a vote in the budget committee once and failed to pass.
Christian Ehler, ITRE’s budget rapporteur, hopes MEPs can be convinced to vote through the amendment. “It would be “really helpful” that, if what “we are bravely asking for” might be delivered by the budget committee in the negotiations, Ehler said yesterday.