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On 7 and 8 February, European heads of state and government reached a deal on the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU budget for the years 2014-2020. For the first time in EU history, the budget foresees a decrease compared to the previous period (2007-2013). The ceiling for ‘commitments’ was set at EUR 960 billion, corresponding to 1% of the gross national income (compared to 1.12% in 2007-2013). Actual expenditure was fixed at EUR 908 billion, i.e. 0.95% of GNI (1.06% in 2007-2013). The difference between both amounts is a peculiarity of EU budget law.
The deal was a compromise between mostly net paying member states, such as the UK and Germany, and others who would have preferred higher ceilings. It still needs approval of the European Parliament (EP). In a first statement, EP President Martin Schulz threatened that the Parliament would reject the deal. He called it “the most backward-looking financial framework in the history of the EU”, missing sufficient future-oriented investments, for example in research and education. He also pointed out that the MFF proposal lacked realism, because the gap between actual expenditure and spending commitments was far too big. If the Parliament rejects the MFF on 13 and 14 March, there will still be a few weeks to work out a compromise between the Council and the EP. Should such attempts fail, then the 2013 ceilings of the 2013 budget would apply (with a 2% inflation compensation), and funds would be made available in a cumbersome month-by-month procedure.
What would this mean for the Erasmus for All and Horizon 2020 programmes? Erasmus for All would get a 7-year budget of EUR 11.8 billion, about 3.4 billion less than the EU Commission had initially requested. Horizon 2020 would get a 7-year envelope of some EUR 71 billion, 10 billion short of the Commission’s proposal. In both cases, and unlike most other parts of the budget, this would represent a net increase compared to the MFF 2007-2013. But these figures are most certainly going to change.