Brussels, 06 Apr 2006
The EU budget for the term 2007 to 2013 was finally agreed in a lengthy evening session on 4 April. The total budget has gone up by 4 billion euro since the December proposals. This includes a welcome 300 million euro extra for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). However, MEPs were quick to express disappointment at the level of funding for research.
Confusingly, the final figure for the FP7 budget has not yet been ironed out, although it will include the extra 300 million mentioned above. A Commission spokesperson said that the final details were in the 'i-dotting and t-crossing' stage. The total extra going to research and education, including FP7 funding, is 2.1 billion euro over the 2007 to 2013 timeframe.
In a statement, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said he was pleased that the 'agreement on the budget for the framework programme for 2007 to 2013 has been reached and that additional funds have been found for programmes that are targeted at EU growth and competitiveness. Now we have to get on with the important task of agreeing the programme that will implement this budgetary framework. The Commission, Parliament and Council will now work closely together to get this done as quickly as possible,' he said.
Parliament President Josep Borrell explained where the extra funds were found. He said that the budget's 'ceiling has been raised by 4 billion euro of 'fresh money', to be added to the resources of certain programmes which would have suffered severe cuts. These include Erasmus (for student exchanges), the lifelong learning programmes, innovation and aid to [small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)]. To these additional resources should be added an increase of 2,500 million euro in the [European Investment Bank's] reserves, to fund programmes in the fields of R&D, transport networks and aids to small businesses.'
MEPs congratulated the Austrian team who brokered the deal. Austrian Federal Minister for Education and Research, Elisabeth Gehrer, described the deal as a, 'milestone for education and research in Europe and a great success for the Austrian Presidency'. Focusing on the large boost of funds for the Erasmus project and then research, she said that, 'With 800 million euro more for education and 300 million euro more for research and development, a further significant step under the Austrian Presidency has been taken towards making Europe more competitive in the future.'
However, the good news was tempered somewhat by the reactions of MEPs, who generally felt that the budgets had not gone far enough, and that research requires further investment. ALDE (Alliance for Liberal Democrats for Europe) leader, MEP Graham Watson (UK) said: 'We feel that we are not providing enough money for the research and development that our Union needs for the Galileo Programme, for the trans-European networks, for lifelong learning: all of the things we should be financing properly to convince our citizens of the added value of the Union,' he said.
MEP Francis Wurtz (FR), President of the GUE/NGL (European United Left and Nordic Green Left) Group went much further, calling for greater increases in spending across the board. 'President Borrell was right to [...] call for more resources for education, research, the trans-European networks and cooperation. In relation to these objectives, the 1.5 per cent increase called for by the negotiators was extremely modest: 1.5 per cent of 1.04 per cent of the EU's GNP! As for the Council, this was still three times too much! Under these conditions, my group's position is that, to be credible, we must reject this kind of farce and assume our responsibilities.'
Other group leaders had mixed feelings about the budget - happy a deal had been reached but disappointed by the size. Socialist group leader MEP Martin Schulz (DE) summed up the general feeling in Strasbourg by saying that the budget was 'less than what we wanted, it was more than many expected'.
The new funds for research come from the 1a (Sustainable Growth: Competitiveness for growth and employment) pot, of which FP7 is a component. The total budget for this area will now rise to approximately 122 billion euro between 2007 and 2013. The 1a budget rises from 11 billion euro in 2007 to 23.4 billion euro in 2013, a rise of 212 per cent before the additional 2.1 billion is factored in. This large rise is considered essential for continued EU growth and sustainability, especially through research and innovation, in an increasingly competitive world.
FP7 is a cornerstone of the Lisbon strategy, which aims to increase European competitiveness. Leading by example, FP7 will be simplified in order to provide clearer themes and cost savings through its content, organisation and implementation.
To see how the extra funds will be spent click here