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7/7/2020  
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European University Association (EUA)

Europe announce agreement is a ´mixed bag´ for Universities and Research


The European institutions announced that they reached an agreement on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in the last round of the so-called "trilogue" discussions. The new financial instrument, which aims to boost growth and jobs in the EU, will be backed by a guarantee partly financed from the EU budget.
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The European Commission proposal originally planned a €2.7 billion cut to the Horizon 2020 programme. A deal was made to moderate cuts to Horizon 2020, down to €2.2 billion. The difference will be financed from unused margins available in the EU’s annual budgets of 2014 and 2015.

For the past six months, European University Association (EUA) has consistently advocated the protection of Horizon 2020 from cuts that would penalise Europe’s universities. Indeed, while EFSI is also promoted as an instrument fostering research and innovation, it is unlikely that universities directly benefit from it. In most European countries, they are unable to make use of a financial tool offering loans rather than grants.

EUA therefore regrets that Horizon 2020 emerges from the deal with €2.2 billion less than was originally agreed in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework. EUA is particularly concerned by the signal that this development sends to public authorities in Europe with regard to the importance of funding university research. Investing for the future is paramount and cannot be done without involving universities. Investing in higher education and research requires actual financial transfers rather than financial instruments.

On the other hand, EUA notes with relief that the compromise now reached restores the funding levels for fundamental research, with the European Research Council, Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions as well as pillar 4 “Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation” completely protected from cuts. Protecting fundamental research has been at the core of EUA’s demands and of high importance for EUA’s membership. The Association therefore welcomes the efforts of the European Parliament to defend this stance in the negotiation.

The €2.2 billion cut will therefore be spread over other Horizon 2020 actions but the European Commission has yet to announce how this will be conducted, whether in proportion to the distribution it originally proposed (with heavy cuts notably to research collaboration projects) or according to a different method.

EUA now calls on EU Member States to live up to their commitment to limit the impact of these cuts as far as possible during each annual budgetary procedure. This will be essential to mitigate the wrong signal sent so far to Europe’s research community.

In this regard, the proposal for the 2016 budget that was recently published by the European Commission is of particular importance. The deal on EFSI should affect the provisional allocation and a new draft budget is expected to take these changes into account.

The compromise on EFSI still has to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers on 19 June and will be voted on in the European Parliament on 24 June.

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