Negotiations surrounding the future EU research framework programme Horizon Europe are progressing although diverging conclusions are slowly being reached between the European Parliament and the Council. In addition, national ministers themselves are split on a number of central issues. At heart of the different viewpoints for Horizon Europe is that of whether to continue maintaining the notion of ‘excellence’ as the central pillar, or whether to shape Horizon Europe as a tool to help fix the research and innovation divide between western and eastern Member States. The Council agreed on a “partial general approach” with promoting scientific excellence as the first objective, reports Research Europe, a position which the European Parliament is unlikely to fully support.
Also unresolved is the exact budget Horizon Europe will get. The European Parliament voted on 12 December on a €120 billion budget, despite calls by academic organisations, EuChemS included, for a €160 billion budget – a figure which would ensure Europe remains a highly competitive and pioneering player in world science, research and innovation. MEP Christian Ehler, one of the two Rapporteurs for Horizon Europe, recognised that even a €120 billion budget would not allow Europe to fully catch up with US and Chinese spending in R&D. The Council has at this stage not yet determined its budget proposal – as this will only become clearer once the figures for the entire Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU are known.
Council ministers have also expressed doubts over the role of ‘Missions’ in Horizon Europe, and have, to the contrary of the European Commission’s intentions, moved from precise missions to more general thematic notions. The Commission’s example mission to reduce plastic waste in rivers and seas was replaced by ministers to a target for healthy water; the mission on curing paediatric cancer was replaced by a more general target for all cancers – reports Science Business.
Finally, Horizon Europe Rapporteur MEP Dan Nica aimed to reassure British colleagues that access to Horizon Europe should in principle not be an issue, and that ultimately, the decision to participate and to what extent would be a British one. But these assurances were not expressively given in Council meetings, nor were they echoed by the European Parliament’s plenary on 12 December. Moreover, the access to the programme for third countries such as Norway and Switzerland was not clearly defined.
It remains unclear at this stage whether a final agreement on Horizon Europe will be finalised before the European Parliament elections next May.