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The EU draft budget proposal 2011, advanced by the European Commission on 27 April to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, brings good news for higher education and research. The proposal drafts an increase in the budget of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) for research and technical development of 13.8 percent, reaching EUR 8.6 billion, the highest amount invested in the programme so far. The Commission also proposes increasing the funding of the Lifelong Learning Programme by 2.6 percent (EUR 1.1 billion), thus making more than 200 000 Erasmus grants available for students in the year to come.
This is however only the first step in the budgetary procedure, where the Parliament and Council together have decision-making power. While the EU's general financial framework is decided for a longer period of time, the current framework spanning over seven years (2007-2013), the EU budget is negotiated on a yearly basis, though within the limits set by the multiannual financial perspective. This will also be the first budget to be adopted under the Lisbon Treaty, which brings two major changes in this respect. Firstly, the procedure is simplified and meant to be much faster, as there will be only “one reading” within the Parliament, compared to two in the past. Secondly, the Parliament is now on equal footing with the Council in adopting the budget.
A month ago the EU Parliament, while waiting for the Commission’s budget proposal, already made public its budgetary priorities for 2011. One particular proposal in the field of higher education stands out, i.e. the idea to create a new programme “Erasmus first job”, in order to promote and facilitate the first employment of young people. It should be interesting to see how this proposal will develop (if at all).
The budget is scheduled to be adopted towards the end of 2010, the exact timing depending on how the Parliament-Council negotiations go.