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EU Council agrees position on EU Budget 2021 and Horizon Europe package

On 9 September, the EU ambassadors agreed within the Budget Committee on the Council's position on the 2021 draft EU budget. In total, the Council's position for next year's budget amounts to EUR 162.9 billion in commitments and EUR 164.8 billion in payments. This budget is to be complemented by actions to support the COVID-19 recovery, which will be funded by Next Generation EU, the EU's EUR 750 billion pandemic recovery plan. This is the first annual budget under the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, the multiannual financial framework (MFF), while the latter is still under negotiation. As these trilateral talks with the European Parliament and the European Commission on the next MFF are ongoing, the Council is likely to further re-evaluate its position in light of the final text of the MFF and the letter of amendment expected from the Commission in the procedure. The Council urged the Commission to submit the amendment letter no later than 31 October 2020, to facilitate the further bilateral negotiations.

In the field of education and training, the Council’s position of 9 September is foreseeing a total of EUR 2.44 billion in budgetary commitments for the Erasmus+ programme in 2021 (Title 7, Chapter 3), as well as an additional contribution to Erasmus+ from the External Action instruments (Title 15, Chapter 2) for the international dimension of the programme, worth EUR 232 million in budgetary commitments for 2021. These numbers are a decrease by 14% (EUR 397 million) and by 6% (EUR 15.8 million) respectively, compared to the Commission’s proposal in June. The largest share of the 2021 budget, close to 88%, would be allocated to the fields of education and training, while 10% are envisaged for youth, with close to 2% for sport. The overall Erasmus+ budget for 2021-2027 is still under negotiations as well, as part of the MFF.

In the field of research and innovation, Horizon Europe could get EUR 758 million less than the commission proposal put forward in June, after based on the 9 September position. Specifically, the proposed budget would give Horizon Europe commitments of EUR 11.5 billion, less than the European Commission’s June proposal, which had EUR 12.3 billion for the R&D programme.

Part of the internal allocation was already rectified through the Competitiveness Council meeting of 29 September, through which the Council finalised its position on the Horizon Europe package for the next MFF, which includes:

  • the internal break-down of Horizon Europe's budget (including funds to be made available under the EU recovery instrument – Next Generation EU (NGEU);
  • the provisions regulating international cooperation;
  • the association of third countries to Horizon Europe;
  • as well as provisions ensuring synergies with other EU funding programmes.

Overall, on the budgetary front, the EU research ministers have agreed on a linear cut across its programmes to reflect the outcome of the July budget summit, but also agreed to reallocate EUR 200 million from the European Innovation Council (EIC) to Marie Skłodowska Curie programme (MSCA), with impact on the 2021 allocation above.

Many of these negotiations are ongoing as we write, with further announcements expected in the coming days, which might further shift the above picture.

The Council is expected to formally adopt its position by the end of this month and will submit it to the Parliament on 1 October. The latter is expected to adopt its amendments to the Council's position in the week starting 9 November. If the Council's and the Parliament's positions diverge, a three-week conciliation period will start on 17 November.