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Although the budget for the upcoming Horizon Europe programme was supposed to be adopted by the end of the year, it is very likely that the negotiations between member states will continue well into 2020.
MEP Christian Ehler, a rapporteur in the European Parliament in charge of the file in the Industry, Research, and Energy (ITRE) committee, warned that the programme could get a EUR 12 billion cut in funding from the member states. Funding reduction was expected by everyone involved, as the European Council tends to financially trim down the proposals from the Commission and, especially, the Parliament. However, this is the first time somebody came out with specific numbers. The proposal came from the Finish presidency, which is coming to an end by the end of the year. Unfortunately, for Europe’s scientists, Croatian takeover of the Council is not expected to turn things around, since Croatia is one of the strongest proponents of EU’s cohesion funds, which are directly competing with EU’s budget for research and science.
Then, there is the participation issue. For UK and Switzerland, two of the leading research countries, it is still unclear whether and how they might be able to participate in the next research programme. Eastern EU countries were strongly advocating, mostly through Dan Nica a Romanian shadow rapporteur in ITRE, for a geographically balanced distribution of funds, rather than based merely on excellence. Currently, most of the funding goes to Western European institutions, where a lot of researchers from the Eastern Europe work, a reality that is also significantly contributing to continued brain drain. This did not make it into the final proposals though, and other mechanisms are planned to address these concerns, such as additional funding for researchers coming from underrepresented countries to join existing projects.
The European Commission has also published this month a revised draft on the Orientations for the first Strategic Plan for Horizon Europe, based on consultations which took place this autumn.