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Cuts to Horizon and sacrifice of Erasmus: is the EU recovery plan a fan favourite?

On 17-21 July 2020 EU leaders agreed on a recovery package and the 2021-2027 budget to help rebuild after the pandemic, as well as supporting green investment and digital transition.The package agreed upon combining the multiannual financial framework (MFF) and a recovery effort under the Next Generation EU (NGEU) goes up to EUR 1 824.3 billion. This was achieved despite intense and difficult negotiations, which heightened tensions, particularly from the “frugal four” (Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Netherlands)

Despite President Michel’s words that « This is a good deal. This is a strong deal. And most importantly, this is the right deal for Europe, right now », opinions vary. In a press release, the Parliament’s negotiating team on the MFF and Own Resources (OR) welcome the fact that an agreement had been found but remained critical on some aspects of the compromise. On 30 June 2020, it was said that the commission was redrafting parts of Horizon Europe to reflect “lessons learned” during the pandemic talking about EUR 13.5 Billion from the recovery fund and how it would be allocated within Horizon Europe.

Research groups however were angry at the cuts made to Horizon Europe. The proposal is “bad news” for EU science, tweeted Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung, a German public health foundation. “Even with €13.5 billion more from [the recovery package], the budget for Horizon Europe would be a paltry increase of less than €6 billion from its predecessor [Horizon 2020], and at a time when we face an unprecedented global health emergency.”  The fight for Horizon’s budget is however not over since the European Parliament can veto the settlement. Still, this would be quite a step but Palmowski argued that the Parliament was eager to assert itsel. Christian Ehler, a German member of the Parliament who supports a large research budget, says “the deal will cement Europe’s fall behind its global competitors in Asia and the USA.”

Horizon isn’t the only sacrifice being made at the altar of the post-covid recovery plan : Erasmus is also considered to be one of the sacrifices made in the financial emergency. If the budget of EUR 21.2 billion is above the EUR 14.7 billion for 2014-2020, it is far below the EUR 24.6 billion that the European Commission was hoping for. University professors see cuts in both Horizon and Erasmus to be, in fine, a sacrifice of the students, even though they represent the future, especially at such a time of a social, economical and sanitary crisis. Erasmus being a program considered to have a high symbolic value for students, with 83% of them saying they feel more European after the experience. During a press conference, the European Parliament declared that it was simply not possible to reduce the budget for research and for Erasmus University Associations Unite also urged EU policy makers to invest in education, research and innovation : EUA and 14 partner university associations reiterated the need for more investment(more information here) reminding the European governments that collective knowledge and skills are essential to address both the current crisis and the upcoming challenges, which means both Horizon Europe and Erasmus need proper resources to “support EU goals with regard to the green and digital transitions, the reinforcement of mobility, enhanced social inclusion, as well as the European Universities Initiative