The European Parliament and the European Commission have united to oppose European Union member state governments’ plans to slash €491 million (£437m) from the proposed Horizon 2020 budget for 2018.
Budgets commissioner Günther Oettinger warned representatives of the European Council on 12 September that their plans threatened the progress of European research. He said at a meeting of the Parliament that the EU institutions were united in their desire to support competitiveness and growth, but that governments hadn’t grasped that research and innovation underpin this aim.
Oettinger used the Quantum Technologies Flagship—a high-budget project aiming to put Europe at the forefront of the field—as an example of how the cuts would undermine the EU’s ambitions. Companies such as Google and Microsoft are investing “billions” in quantum research, and the EU would fall behind its competitors if it cut funding, he said.
Siegfried Muresan, vice-chairman of the Parliament’s budgets committee, has called the Council’s plans “totally unacceptable”, adding that MEPS would not be willing to concede ground.
The Council wants to take €1.7 billion from the 2018 EU budget proposed by the Commission. This would include €46m from the Galileo satellite navigation system, €33m from the Iter nuclear fusion project and €20m from the Copernicus Earth-observation programme.
Research groups have welcomed the opposition to the cuts. Jan Palmowski, secretary-general of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, told Research Fortnight’s sister publication Research Europe that it was “critical” that research funding be protected.
“The proposed cuts undermine member states’ commitment to boost economic growth, and set an unwelcome precedent for the next Framework programme,” Palmowski said.
It is common for the Council to propose cuts, and then agree a compromise close to the Commission’s original proposal. This year the Parliament has until 26 October to adopt amendments to the Council’s position, and then a three-week conciliation period will start on 31 October.
Peter Tindemans, secretary-general of the researchers’ association EuroScience, said he thinks the Parliament will get its way. “I think in the end there will be a serious reduction in the proposed cuts, because the Parliament has the final say on the budget and it will not move.”
This article also appeared in Research Fortnight