The European Commission has published from which budgets it will draw the funds for its own contribution to the European Fund for Strategic Investments, which then should trigger a multiplier effect through contributions from the European Investment Bank, national governments and the private sector.
EuroScience is not in principle against using a small part of the Horizon 2020 budget for this purpose. If the leveraging is successful it is not unlikely that more money will flow into research and innovation.
But to reduce the budget of the European Research Council with about 2%, and moreover, as we understand, have the full reduction paid from the budgets of 2015 and especially 2016, is a very bad signal: the budget for the initial years would already not increase due to the Finance Ministers’ desire to reduce the budget for payments. There is no chance whatsoever that the ERC will benefit from additional, leveraged money from the EIB, national governments or the private sector.
The argument given by the Budget Commissioner seems to be the best indication that with the idea of creating an Investment Fund the visionary part was over. As he said, the budgets for Agriculture and the Structural Funds are pre-allocated to the member states, and so a significant part had to come from Horizon 2020. There is absolutely no legal reason why this should be so. It just shows that the Commission in advance gives in to the member states. Rumours have it that even the European Parliament seems to be inclined to accept this because getting the Investment Plan apparently is seen as the higher good that justifies undermining something that has been so carefully built up like the ERC. The argument that the ERC budget for 2014-2020 has increased significantly and thus can cope with some reduction only adds to the pettiness of the reasoning. It was increased – and less than the Commission rightly proposed – for a reason: growth and jobs, and European excellence and
attractiveness for researchers worldwide.
EuroScience calls upon the Commission, the member states and the European Parliament to not reduce the budget of the ERC when collecting the contributions from the EU budget to pay for the EU share to the Investment Fund.