Horizon Europe Faces Budget Cut Amid EU's Reallocation for Ukraine War EffortsBy Joy Liwanag
In a significant move impacting scientific research, the European Union (EU) has agreed to cut €2.1 billion from the Horizon Europe budget, redirecting €1.5 billion to defense research.
This decision, part of a €64.6 billion reconfiguration to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, has raised concerns within the research community and intensified discussions about the EU's commitment to scientific advancement.
Budget Reallocation and Defense Research Boost
EU heads of state, meeting in Brussels, approved a reshuffling of the multiannual budget, channeling €50 billion to aid Ukraine. However, a portion of the funds, €1.5 billion, will bolster the European Defence Fund (EDF), supporting military technology research and development. This additional funding aligns with the EU's ambitions for the Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform (STEP), emphasizing investments in deep tech, clean tech, and biotech to enhance competitiveness on the global stage.
Concerns and Horizon Europe's Cut
While the EU leaders' decision addresses immediate geopolitical challenges, it comes at the expense of Horizon Europe, a critical research program. The €2.1 billion cut is a matter of contention, especially considering warnings from the research community and EU Research Commissioner Iliana Ivanova. In recent discussions with the European Parliament's industry and research committee, Ivanova highlighted the underfunding of Horizon Europe's predecessor, Horizon 2020, advocating for an additional €159 billion to support high-quality proposals.
Impact on Scientific Progress
The diversion of funds raises questions about the EU's commitment to advancing scientific research, particularly at a time when global leadership in technology and innovation is fiercely contested. Critics argue that compromising Horizon Europe's budget could hamper the EU's ability to foster groundbreaking research and maintain competitiveness against global rivals such as the US and China.
Hungarian Veto and Ukraine Aid Package
The budget deal faced challenges during negotiations, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban initially pushing for a veto over annual aid disbursements to Ukraine. However, EU leaders managed to secure an agreement for an annual review instead of a veto. This resolution allowed the budget reallocation to move forward, providing crucial support to Ukraine amid ongoing tensions with Russia.
Positive Impact on Ukraine
While the budget reshuffle raises concerns within the research community, it delivers a positive outcome for Ukraine. The war-torn nation, grappling with Russian attacks, receives substantial financial aid as its internal resources dwindle. The EU's decision to prioritize Ukraine underscores the geopolitical significance of the conflict and the bloc's commitment to supporting nations in crisis.
Looking Ahead: Horizon Europe and FP10
As stakeholders express apprehensions about the immediate impact on Horizon Europe, discussions about the program's successor, FP10, loom on the horizon. Set to commence in 2028, negotiations are anticipated to shape the future of EU research funding. Some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are urging the Commission to propose a budget of at least €200 billion for FP10, emphasizing the crucial role research plays in addressing global challenges.
The EU's decision to divert funds from Horizon Europe to support Ukraine and defense research reflects a complex balancing act between geopolitical priorities and the pursuit of scientific excellence. As the research community grapples with concerns over budget cuts, the broader implications for the EU's global standing in research and innovation remain a subject of ongoing debate.