MEPs draw comfort from Horizon 2020 content, as budget disappoints
Research Europe

The European Parliament’s committee for industry and research has celebrated small successes in the agreed package for Horizon 2020, but expressed disappointment about its final budget.

At a meeting in Brussels on 18 September to discuss the outcome of the Horizon 2020 negotiations, which concluded in June, MEPs said that, overall, they were satisfied with the agreement.

“We weren’t able to keep [the budget] as we’d have liked to, but we maintained a high amount of what we would have wanted,” said Marisa Matias, a left-wing Portuguese MEP and a rapporteur on Horizon 2020.

Among the successes cited by committee members are the instruments to boost innovation at small businesses, a strengthened Marie Curie Actions programme, and the addition of programmes to widen participation in underserved regions.

However, several MEPs complained that the overall budget for the 2014-20 programme—about €70 billion—was too low. The Parliament had initially proposed €100bn, and MEPs said the shortfall would damage the EU’s ability to reach its goals for 2020.

“Compared with 2013, the Horizon 2020 envelope as a whole is a reduction [and] it’s probably a 10 per cent decrease,” said German MEP Christian Ehler, a member of the European People’s Party and a rapporteur on Horizon 2020. “That is not right and proper, and does not correspond to the common goals of the EU. We promised 3 per cent [of GDP] for research and we’re a long way away. The next generation is going to have to pay for this.”

Although the Parliament’s budgetary recommendation was not successful, Ehler said the institution had “never been so well prepared” for its role in the budget process. He claimed it had met the task of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which aimed to grant Parliament more power to influence the budget. “We’re not just a monitor or implementer of what’s already been done; we’re part and parcel of the formative work,” he said.

Spanish MEP Pilar del Castillo Vera, from the European People’s Party, agreed. She said that the Parliament had, through its role in the Horizon 2020 negotiations so far, “managed to consolidate and crystallise its maturity”.

The next challenge, the MEPs said, is to ensure that the programme is implemented efficiently and effectively, and that a call for proposals is finalised and issued in January 2014.

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