February 22, 2024

Draft: EU plans to cut research

The network’s editorial team “Scientific works” There is a leaked document from the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This suggests significantly reducing spending on EU research programmes. The EU research program could lose up to 5.3 billion euros; It is clear that most of the cuts are directed to the Horizon Europe project. The proposal was already discussed at ambassadorial level on November 23. The cuts in science are intended to offset higher interest rates from the European Rescue Fund.

The leaked working document sent to EU member states last week sets out cuts in all EU programs over the period from 2025 to 2027 in three possible scenarios: by 3.4 percent, 6.8 percent or 13.5 percent. While Horizon Europe will face the largest reduction, other research-related programs such as Erasmus+, EU4Health and Digital Europe will also see cuts of up to 13.5%. Even the smallest proposed cuts would mean a €1.3 billion cut in Horizon Europe’s budget.

First reactions from research and the European Parliament

Such a decision would be “a disaster and a complete negation of the EU’s rhetoric of strategic autonomy, which views further investment in research and innovation as absolute,” Science Business magazine quoted Kurt Diktelier, Secretary General of the European Research-Intensive University Association, as saying. “Basic requirements.” For Thomas Esterman, director of the European University Association, the cuts would be a blow to Europe’s competitiveness. This underscores the need to better protect research funding from cuts. “It shows how important it is to provide greater security for the funds agreed upon,” Esterman said. “Taking money from one of Europe’s highest value-added financing programs is not the right way to go.”

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Jan Ulbricht, the EU Parliament’s rapporteur on the issue, told Science Business that any cuts would undermine ongoing discussions in Parliament as well as the Commission’s vision of strengthening the EU research program within the EU budget. “With cuts, we will have to take money away from programs that we ultimately want to strengthen,” Ulbrich said. “The European Parliament has expressed its position in its report on the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework and in the recent agreement on the 2024 budget: funding for research and innovation must be strengthened.”

MEP Christian Eller, one of Parliament’s leading voices on research, said such cuts would threaten Europe’s climate goals, competitiveness and digital ambitions. “This proposal confirms once again that member states are prepared to destroy Europe’s future if it means saving money next year,” Ehler said. “Worse still, it is an insult to the inherent value of science and innovation in the European project.” It is currently unclear whether Member States and the European Parliament will agree to the reduction to the mentioned extent.